Note: Always see a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your or your child’s health.
Breastmilk is truly amazing, isn’t it? It’s made by our own bodies, and it’s packed with the nutrients and antibodies our babies need to grow and thrive. And if that’s all we got from breastmilk, it would still be an almost mind-boggling accomplishment. But did you know you can use your milk for more than just feeding your baby? Today we’ll look at a few different uses you can put expressed breastmilk to. Many of these other uses have been used by people in different parts of the world for centuries – and with good cause!
Before we start though, it’s good to remember with all of these uses you should ensure you always express and use your breastmilk with clean hands and implements, and keep in mind that the fresher the milk is, the better. Even if you’re not going to be feeding your expressed breastmilk to your baby, you should still always follow your country’s milk storage guidelines, and discard any milk that has been stored outside those recommendations.
It’s very common for our newborns to have issues with blocked tear ducts – they’re still small, and it can sometimes take a while for the ducts themselves to open properly. This usually resolves on its own, but until it does, it can lead to baby’s eyes becoming covered in a thick residue – this is caused by tears that haven’t been able to drain properly building up on their eyelashes and around their eyes. To clean it, use a clean cloth or cotton ball along with freshly expressed breastmilk then gently wipe the discharge from their eyes – if using cotton balls, make sure to use a fresh one for each eye, each time. If using cloths, move to a clean section once you’ve finished cleaning one eye – try not to reuse the same section on different eyes, and always wash the cloth once you’re done. Studies have found that using drops of breastmilk can be very effective as a first-line treatment for young babies under six months old who have eye discharge1. Put a couple of drops of freshly expressed milk onto their eyes – use a clean, sterilised eye dropper. Alternatively, using Haakaa’s Silicone Colostrum Collector could be ideal since it has the convenient dropper nib and is incredibly easy to clean, sterilise and reuse!
Similarly, if you have minor nipple discomfort or dryness, expressing a couple of extra drops to gently pat onto your nipples after a feed and then leaving it to air dry can be a great first port of call. All those lovely nutrients and antibodies in your milk? They’re not just good for your baby – they’re good for your skin, too.
Babies’ delicate skin can be particularly prone to drying out or developing eczema (also called atopic dermatitis). It’s estimated that up to 20% of children in New Zealand are affected by eczema2, so it’s something a large number of parents will have to deal with. Emollients and corticosteroids are the go-to for eczema, especially when severe, but breastmilk has a role it can play here as well! There are two options when it comes to treating eczema with breastmilk. First, it can be applied topically – using freshly expressed breastmilk, apply to a cotton ball or soft cloth, gently pat it over the affected skin, and allow the milk to air dry. This can be useful for localised eczema outbreaks.
Another method is a milk bath! You can use fresh milk, or thaw some frozen milk you have stashed away. Run your baby’s bath as you normally would, then add enough milk to make the water cloudy – somewhere between 150-300ml of milk is a good place to start, depending on how much water is in the bath. Let your baby soak in the moisture and nutrients the milk has to offer for 10-20 minutes, using a cup or washcloth to make sure the milky water gets on any affected, unsubmerged skin. There’s no need to rinse them with fresh water once they’re done. Pat them dry when they’re out of the bath, then apply your usual emollient to lock in the moisture they’ve been soaking up! Even if your little one doesn’t have eczema, this is a great use for extra stored breastmilk – the same two methods are also effective for nappy rash, as well as being a fantastic skin care routine! In fact, studies have found that breastmilk treatments can have a similar result on eczema and nappy rash as using a 1% hydrocortisone cream3! In addition, using breastmilk topically (directly on the skin) is also a good way to deal with mosquito bites.
The use of a nasal aspirator is very common, especially during cold and ‘flu season. When some of the blockages are solid, aspirator instructions recommend a drop or two of saline into your baby’s nostrils (one at a time!) to help soften the mucous so the aspirator can work more effectively. But if you don’t have any saline to hand? You guessed it! A couple of drops of freshly expressed breastmilk will work just as well. Here, if you have it, the Colostrum Collector can be used to collect a few drops directly from your breast (making sure the collector is sterilised first), then administer the milk right before you clear your baby’s blocked nose.
Breastmilk can be perfect for teething babies. A lot of babies like to chew on cold teethers while they’re teething, but there’s more in the arsenal than only that – why not try freezing some breastmilk? The Haakaa Fresh Food Feeder is absolutely perfect for this. The pouch cover means you can pour breastmilk directly into the feeder and freeze it, creating a breastmilk ice block to soothe the pain and discomfort of teething gums – useful and healthy!
As an alternative to freezing directly into the feeder, try out the Pineapple Silicone Nibble Tray. The compartments are designed to freeze the contents into the perfect size and shape to fit into the Fresh Food Feeder, and since there are nine compartments, that gives you more than just one frozen treat at a time. It even comes with a handy label slot so you know exactly when you froze your milk, avoiding leaving things too long and having to discard it. No more waste! Of course, you can use it for more than just breastmilk – whichever treats you want, you can prepare and freeze for perfect toddler-sized snacks. And because it’s 100% food-grade silicone, this tray can even go in the oven for some homemade baking!
This blog does not constitute medical advice and should not be taken as such. If you have any concerns about your health or that of your child, please consult a medical professional.
1Sugimura T., Seo T., Terasaki N., Ozaki Y., Rikitake N., Okabe R, & Matsushita M. (2021). Efficacy and safety of breast milk eye drops in infants with eye discharge. Acta Paediatrica. 110(4), 1322–1329. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.15628
2Stanway, A., & Jarrett, P. (2021). Atopic dermatitis. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/atopic-dermatitis
3Witkowska-Zimny, M., Kamińska-El-Hassan, E., & Wróbel, E. (2019) Milk therapy: Unexpected uses for human breast milk. Nutrients, 11(5), 944. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11050944