The 'cuckoo awesome' thing this mum realised about her breast milk

Mallory Smothers with her eldest child.
Mallory Smothers with her eldest child. Photo: Facebook

Mallory Smothers put up a recent post on Facebook discussing something she described as "cuckoo awesome".

On Thursday night last week, Mallory expressed her breast milk as normal before putting her baby to sleep. Throughout the night, Mallory then continued to feed her baby as needed.

During the night, Mallory noticed her little one became unwell and was "congested, irritable and sneezing A LOT [sic]". She attributed these symptoms to a cold.

The "cuckoo awesome" thing happened when Mallory expressed in the morning, and then compared that bag of milk to the one she had expressed the night before.

The difference was striking.

She wrote that the bag she produced on Friday resembled colostrum "… and this comes after nursing the baby with a cold all night long".

While Mallory was blown away by the change in colour of her milk in response to her baby's illness, she had a good idea of why it had happened.

So yall.. This is just cuckoo awesome-- I read an article from a medical journal not too long ago about how Mom's milk...

Posted by Mallory Smothers on  Sunday, 14 February 2016

She had recently read research that showed how a mother's milk tailors to her baby's needs "in more ways than just caloric intake".

She also refers to research, published in the journal Clinical & Translational Immunology, which backs this concept.

The research showed that infections in mums and infants cause a rapid response of leukocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections) in breast milk.

The study explained that colostrum (that first milk a mum produces after a baby is born) is naturally rich in leukocytes, along with other protective 'goodies' like immunoglobulins and lactoferrin.

In fact, the study stated that leukocytes made up 13-70 per cent of total cells found in colostrum.

Within the first two weeks after giving birth, the number of leukocytes then massively reduces, becoming a mere 0-2 per cent of breast milk's total composition.

However, the research showed that if a mother or her baby develops an infection, the leukocyte number increases in response, becoming 94 per cent of total cells in breast milk.

Once the infection is over, the leukocyte count then goes back to its normal amount.  

Midwife Cheryl Sheriff isn't surprised by these findings, or by Mallory's photos.

She says "it makes sense" for a mother's breast milk to change both composition, and colour, in response to her baby's illness.

However, she says the majority of breastfeeding mums wouldn't notice the colour change unless they expressed their milk.

While Mallory noticed this change in colour due to her baby's illness, Sheriff agrees with the research, saying the same thing happens when mum is the one who's sick.

"This protects the baby from the maternal infection and allows feeding to continue."

Breast milk doesn't just boost its immune-fighting abilities when either mum or bub is sick – Sheriff says it also contains endorphins, which act as natural "pain suppressors" which help baby feel better when unwell.

Since Mallory uploaded her post on Facebook on Valentine's Day it's been shared over 65,000 times.

Mallory's pleased so many people have taken an interest in her discovery, writing in the comments section of her post, "I am glad so many are wanting to spread the word on the amazing benefits of breastfeeding!"

Of course, not everybody can, or wants to, breastfeed.

Regardless, Mallory's post really illustrates the incredible way our bodies can stay in tune with our baby's needs.

"[It's] pretty awesome, huh?!" Mallory wrote. "The human body never ceases to amaze me."