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					     your walking
     medicine chest
                     mothers’ milk is the perfect panacea for a whole host of ailments—
                                     from pinkeye to acne. Just a squirt will do the trick!

                                                                                                         B y    L i z   L a i n g

     Most people know about the                   pediatrician, author, and breastfeeding       tivitis cleared up. A friend of mine
     health benefits of breastfeeding, but        authority—encourages the use of breast-       used her breastmilk on all her family
     few know about breastmilk’s medici-          milk in this way. “I recommend breast-        members whenever they got pinkeye,
     nal benefits. Breastmilk is sterile,         milk as the best nose drop for babies         and thus for years she was able to avoid
     antibacterial, and has many healing          and children with colds,” he says. “The       having to buy prescription eyedrops.
     properties. It can be used to treat a        milk kills viruses on contact (sounds like        You never know when breastmilk
     variety of ailments and can be applied       a TV commercial!), and the best part is       will come in handy. I got liquid soap
     topically for eye and ear infections,        that it makes babies sneeze. The sneeze       in my eye once while in the locker
     minor skin injuries, sore or cracked         sends viruses, bacteria, dust, and more       room at my gym. My eye was burn-
     nipples, diaper rash, sore throats,          flying out of the nose at 100 mph.”           ing and extremely red, and rinsing it
     and stuffy noses. Is breastmilk                  Several clinical studies have shown       with water didn’t help at all. I checked
     an everyday cure-all? Read on and            that since each mother’s milk is made         my purse for eyedrops but found
     judge for yourself.                          specifically for her own baby, it is effec-   none. Then I remembered the built-in
        When your child gets a cold and           tive in ridding the infant’s eyes and         medicine chest I carried around on
     has a stuffy nose, drizzle breastmilk        nose of viruses and germs. I have used        my own chest. I went into a bathroom
     into each nostril. It will thin the mucus,   it on my own children, and even on            stall, cupped my hand, squirted out
     and the milk’s natural antibodies will       myself. Recently, my son had pinkeye;         some milk, and bathed my eye in it.
     help fight infection. Jay Gordon, MD,        when I applied my breastmilk to his           Ahhhhhh! Instant relief—the redness
                                                                                                                                           John SellarS

     FAAP, IBCLC—a nationally recognized          eyes several times a day, the conjunc-        and painful stinging were gone.

60   mothering        |   november    •   december 2005
                                                                                                                                                    liz laing
     The author’s daughter Kyla applies expressed breastmilk to a scrape on her hand using a cotton ball.

     m o r e ways to us e br e a s t m i l k
        • Acne Treatment and Facial Cleanser Wash face with a                     breast and nursed her as we were deciding what hospital
          mild soap, rinse, and gently pat a breastmilk-saturated ball            to take her to. I’m so glad that I was able to comfort her
          of cotton (not a synthetic material) over the entire face.              during this traumatic time, and I believe the act of nurs-
          This process is great for removing eye makeup as well.                  ing did help to begin to heal her wound.”
        • Burns and Sunburn Apply breastmilk gingerly to                        • Diaper Rash Gently pat baby’s bottom with breastmilk,
          burns and they will dry up and look much better the                     being especially generous when applying it to reddened
          next day. A burn treated with breastmilk and mashed-                    or rash areas. Leave baby’s diaper off for a few minutes
          up blueberries will dry up within an hour, wrote one                    and let the bottom air-dry.
          mom on a Midwifery Today online forum.1 Elena
                                                                                • Ear Infections Place a few drops of breastmilk in the
          Michaels, PhD, CCH, LMFT, a traditional naturopath in
                                                                                  ear; follow with warm (not hot) olive oil and garlic, or
          Santa Clarita, California, told me that she often applied
                                                                                  bottled garlic mullein oil (sold at natural food stores).
          her breastmilk to her kids’ sunburns. “The soothing
          milk would stop the pain immediately,” she said. “I                   • Red or Puffy Eyes Place two cotton balls saturated with
          believe the lauric acid found in breastmilk is antiviral,               breastmilk over closed eyes for a few minutes—works
          antibacterial, healing to tissue, and contains analgesic                better than tea bags or cucumber slices!
          properties.” Besides human breastmilk, virgin coconut                 • Insect Bites With a clean finger, dab breastmilk on the
          oil is nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid.                    bite; this will help stop the itching.
        • Chapped Lips Dab a bit of milk onto dry lips, leaving
                                                                                • Skin Rash/Wounds Apply breastmilk on itchy spots—
          them wet. Apply often, and lips should take only a day or               even chickenpox—for soothing relief. One woman
          two to heal.                                                            claims that she used her breastmilk to clear up an elderly
        • Cold Sores and Fever Blisters Place milk directly on a                  relative’s leg ulcers. It’s also possible that breastmilk
          cold sore with a clean finger or cotton ball. This should               helps heal skin wounds in nursing women themselves.
          speed the healing process and also help relieve some of
                                                                                • Sore or Cracked Nipples Gently rub milk onto nipples
          the pain.
                                                                                  or area of soreness and let air-dry. Another option is to
        • Cuts, Scrapes, Scratches Clean wound first using                        bathe the sore nipple by dipping it into a clean, shallow
          breastmilk if you don’t have soap and water. Drip milk                  dish of breastmilk.
          onto the wound, then let it air-dry. You can also use
                                                                                • Sore Throats Baby can benefit by directly nursing.
          a cotton ball or a 4-by-4-inch gauze pad soaked in
          breastmilk. If the cut is on a baby’s lips or mouth area,             • Warts Leave a breastmilk-saturated cotton ball on the
          allow him or her to nurse. An upset child will be calmed                wart for a few minutes twice a day. Continue for several
          by the gentle, loving act of breastfeeding, and the milk                days until the wart dries up.
          will help heal the wound. “I’ll never forget when my               NOTE
          15-month-old daughter was bitten by her grandma’s                  .
          dog right on her face,” says Nancy Levesque, a former
          La Leche League leader. “I immediately put her to my                                                                         —Liz Laing

62   mothering        |   november    •   december 2005
I was glad to have this option available,  eases and health conditions of adults     and her team to help fund further
and felt proud that my body produces       and children and as a superior food       research into their discovery.
something that can be used to help heal    for babies. These folk cures have been        While this type of scientific news is
other parts of my body. What a great       tested throughout time. Currently, there  exciting, let’s not forget the real miracle
way to recycle.                            has been more interest in the scientific  of breastmilk and its primary use. The
    Besides colds and eye irritations,     community to test the components of       healing powers of this liquid gold are
there are several other conditions that    human milk’s effect on different health   incredible enough, but breastmilk’s
might benefit from the use of breast-      problems that plague us today. Hopefully, most amazing quality is that it gives life.
milk. In most cases you simply express     in the near future, we will validate the  No other food or substance on earth
your milk into a clean saucer, cup, or     incredible power that our body has to     comes close to doing what breast-
bowl, then use a cotton ball or eyedrop-   promote growth, heal itself, and preserve milk does. Human breastmilk is the
per to apply or squirt                                                                                    ideal food for human
milk directly onto the      several clinical studies have shown that since babies. Pediatrician Jay
area, as needed, for the                                                                                  Gordon reminds us
desired results.            each mother’s milk is made specifically for her how crucial breast-
    In many places—         own baby, it is effective in ridding the infant’s                             feeding is when he
including Mexico,                                                                                         says, “Babies denied
Russia, Africa, South       eyes and nose of viruses and germs.                                           breastmilk during the
America, and India—                                                                                       first year of life get
the use of breastmilk in                   its integrity via human milk.”                                 sick and die at a much
alternative ways is quite common. One           Breastmilk may even kill cancer      greater rate than babies who nurse.”
mother on a Midwifery Today online         cells. In 1995 physician and immunolo-        I am still amazed when I watch
forum said, “In Nigeria, if a child has a  gist Catharina Svanborg and a team of     my son nurse. I know that his healthy,
condition of the eyes, such as mucus,      research biologists at Sweden’s Lund      growing body is thriving because he
we simply squirt a bit of breastmilk and   University discovered in breastmilk a     is suckling the perfect food, which my
it clears right up.”1                      protein compound, alpha-lactalbumin       body makes for his body. But in addi-
    Besides healing common minor           (they gave it the acronym HAMLET),        tion to satisfying this primary need, my
afflictions, breastmilk has recently       that selectively induces apoptosis in     breastmilk can help heal his body in
been in the news for helping to treat      tumor cells. In other words, HAMLET
                                                         4                           other ways as well.
more serious illnesses. Adult cancer       makes cancer cells commit suicide. In
patients have been drinking breastmilk     fact, it has killed every type of cancer
in an attempt to boost their immune        the researchers have tested it against.   asp?TOPIC_ID=383
systems and cope better with the side      HAMLET has also been used to success-     2. michael day, “adults turn to breast milk to
effects of chemotherapy.2 While this       fully treat virally infected warts, which ease effects of chemotherapy,” Daily Telegraph
is not a common practice, a milk bank                                                (6 January 2005);
                                           were reduced by 75 percent in volun-      main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/16/nteat16.xml
in California has supplied a group of      teers who received daily treatments with  3. “the man who swears by breastmilk,” BBC
pioneering patients with breastmilk for    an ointment containing the protein. The   News Online, uk edition (23 January 2005):
the past few years. One lucky recipient                                    
                                           same viruses that cause warts are also
                                                                                     4. catharina svanborg, md, Phd, “treatment of
of this donor milk, Howard Cohen of        linked to cervical cancer, genital warts, skin Papillomas with topical alpha-lactalbumin-
Palo Alto, California, strongly believes   and some types of skin cancer. Well, we   oleic acid,” New England Journal of Medicine
that ingesting breastmilk daily has        all knew that breastmilk is powerful.     350 (2004): 2663–2672.
helped his prostate cancer go into              You may wonder why this discovery
remission.3                                of a possible cure for cancer has not     Liz Laing, ACE, is a freelance writer
    Donor milk is used to treat a variety  received greater attention. Funding is    and mother of four beautiful, breastfed
of health problems. I spoke with Pauline   part of the problem, but slowly, in the   children. She has been a stay-at-home
Sakamoto, RN, MS, executive director       past decade, more attention has been      mom for the past 12 years and most
of the Mothers’ Milk Bank in San Jose,     paid to this small laboratory in a quiet  recently is overcoming the challenges of
California, about some of the other ways   corner of the world. Even the American    single motherhood. A certified childbirth
breastmilk benefits people. “Historically, Cancer Society has given its stamp of     educator and doula, Liz lives in Los
human milk has been used for dis-          approval by giving a grant to Svanborg    Angeles, California.

                                                                              november      •   december 2005     |   mothering        63

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