Breast milk baths: what you need to know
World Breastfeeding Week is all about celebrating the wonderful act of breastfeeding. The nutritional benefits of breast milk are well known, but it also has a multitude of other positive properties. Mothers are now experimenting with unique ways of using their breast milk, including teething lollies and breast milk baths.
Whilst bathing in milk as long been part of a luxurious skin care routine (hey, Cleopatra!), breast milk baths might sound like a fairly new phenomenon, although as a natural cleanser and disinfectant, it’s likely this has been happening throughout history. However, with google searches for ‘breast milk baths’ reaching a ten year peak this summer, and mommy bloggers all over the world advocating its benefits, it’s clear that breast milk baths are now hitting the mainstream.
The many benefits of breast milk baths
But why are so many mothers now considering breast milk baths? Your breast milk is made up of various components, with so many healing properties that you could easily be reading out the ingredients list of an expensive skin care range. This makes breast milk baths not only an amazing way to utilise surplus milk, but extremely beneficial for your baby’s skin.
Breast milk contains palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid that’s a brilliant natural moisturiser, which makes it great for keeping your baby’s skin super soft. It also has oleic acid, which heals dry skin and fights the signs of ageing - not that this will be a concern for your little one! You can also find vaccenic acid, which protects and nourishes skin, and Linoleic acid that lightens spots and minimises inflammation.
But breast milk is not only a wonderful natural moisturiser, it can also be used to treat more specific skin conditions. Whilst acne might seem like something we left behind in our teenage years, a baby can actually have spotty breakouts due to mom’s hormones still being in its body from pregnancy. Luckily, breast milk can help with baby acne as it contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial properties and can also be found in beauty blogger favourite, coconut oil.
Breast milk also contains immunoglobulin-A antibodies that fight off bacteria and cure infections. This makes it a great natural cure for any minor burns, scrapes, cuts, and even insect bites. These antibodies are also anti-inflammatory, perfect for treating common conditions such as nappy rash. Breast milk baths not only soothe the initial irritation but can used regularly they can also clear nappy rash up quickly and naturally.
Whilst the scientific facts illustrate breast milk’s various healing properties, it is the real stories from mothers that illustrate just how effective it can be. Moms on both sides of the Atlantic have shared their experience of breast milk baths, with many claiming it to be a natural remedy, solving issues including eczema and cradle cap, succeeding were expensive creams and medications failed.
How to give your baby a breast milk bath
Bathing your baby in breast milk is just as easy as giving them an everyday bath. Simply fill the tub with warm water as you would normally and then add your breast milk. You can use freshly expressed milk or frozen milk - once it’s thawed. As the baby isn’t drinking the milk, you can get away with using breast milk that is slightly out of date, as long as it doesn’t smell off.
When figuring out how much of your milk to put in the bath, a general rule of thumb is enough to make the water cloudy - between 150ml and 300ml is usually a good amount. If you have more milk left over from expressing you can, of course, add a little more but be careful, your baby might smell a little milky if you use too much - so keep an eye (or nose) on that.
Once your baby is in the water, you can let them soak in there for about 10-15 minutes, so its skin can really absorb all the nutrients from your milk. Bathe your baby as you usually would, using your hands to dribble water over them. If they have any rashes, scabs or other skin conditions that need attention, spend a little extra time making sure plenty of bath water reaches them. Once you’ve finished bathing, there’s no need to rinse your baby off, just pat them dry with a towel and use a baby safe lotion to lock the moisture and nutrients in. Some mothers have found adding extra ingredients, like oat milk, to the breast milk bath can help with certain skin conditions, such as eczema.
How often you should bathe your baby in breast milk really depends on how often you normally bathe them but also whether or not they have any skin issues you’re trying to treat. If you want to give your baby breast milk baths, once or twice a week should be enough for them to benefit from the healing properties of your milk.
the benefits of breast milk are pretty much endless. From strengthening the immune system to curing skin conditions - is there anything your magical liquid can’t do?