Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that provide nourishment to a baby. But did you know that breast milk can be used as more than just food for the baby? That’s right. The nutritive value of breast milk makes it perfect for bathing the baby as well! A breast milk bath sounds a little extreme, you say? Absolutely not.
A breast milk bath is considered to offer the same benefits to the baby’s skin and body as drinking breast milk. In this article, MomJunction tells you about the benefits of bathing babies with breast milk and the correct way of doing it.
What Is A Breast Milk Bath?
Sometimes the baby’s bath water is mixed with some quantity of breast milk. The water is then used to soak the baby in a bathtub and clean them the usual way. A breast milk bath offers notable benefits for babies.
What Are The Benefits Of A Breast Milk Bath?
Not all may consider a breast milk bath, though it can be beneficial. Here are the benefits it offers:
- Moisturize the skin: Breast milk contains fatty acids such as oleic acid, palmitic acid, and linolenic acid (1). These fatty acids can work as a barrier on the skin and lock in the moisture to prevent dryness. Babies with dry and itchy skin can get some relief through a breast milk bath.
- Protects skin and body against pathogens: Breast milk contains several antibodies and has strong anti-infective properties (2). These antibodies can prevent pathogenic invasion of minor cuts and bruises on the infant’s body.
The fatty acids present in breast milk, such as oleic acid, also play a part in eliminating bacteria. Oleic acid can kill the bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (3), which is commonly present on the skin and can cause food poisoning when ingested (4).
- Reduce and repair skin damage: The linolenic acid present in breast milk has two variants namely omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The acid mitigates the damage to the baby’s skin due to sunlight (5).
Topical application of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can bring down the inflammatory response of the skin damaged by UV light. It means a breast milk bath could help remedy any sunburns on the baby’s skin.
- Heal small wounds: The omega fatty acids in the milk can heal minor wounds and provide relief. The fatty acids achieve it by intervening in the wound repair function of the skin.
- Soothe diaper rash and eczema: Research has shown that breast milk can be used as a safe topical remedy for curing diaper dermatitis (diaper rash) and eczema (6) (7). Breast milk is considered a low-cost and reliable alternative to topical ointments used for the treatment of these skin conditions. Therefore, breast milk bath can be an ideal home remedy for diaper rash and eczema.
- Prevents pump and dump (for mothers): Mothers who express breast milk during breast engorgement need not dispose of the excess milk. Instead, the surplus breast milk can be used to bathe the baby. It prevents the wastage of the milk.
A breast milk bath is also safe for babies. Even a small quantity of breast milk is sufficient for bathing babies, which brings us to the next point.
What Quantity Of Breast Milk Should You Use For The Bath?
Use enough breast milk to make the bath water cloudy. You can add about 150ml to 300ml of breast milk in a baby bathtub full of water. You may add even more, but a quantity up to 300ml is sufficient. The baby might smell ‘milky’ if you use too much milk in the bath water.
How To Bath The Baby In Breast Milk?
Giving the baby a breast milk bath is the same as giving them a regular bath. Here is how you can do it:
- Fill the tub with warm water and add freshly expressed breast milk. You can also use frozen breast milk by thawing it before adding. If it is summer, and your baby baths in cold water, then you can use the thawed breast milk to keep the water warm.
- Let the baby sit in the bathtub. Dribble the water all over the baby’s body using your hands. Pour more water on rashes if the baby has any.
- Let the baby soak in the water for about 10-15 minutes. After that, take the baby out of the bath and pat dry them with a fresh towel. You don’t have to rinse them with plain water.
You can use a baby-safe moisturizer after the bath to lock the moisture into the skin.
Can You Use Old Breast Milk For A Breast Milk Bath?
There is no harm in using old and expired breast milk unless it smells bad or has curdled. Refrigerated milk should be used within four days while frozen milk has a long life of six months (8). Therefore, you can use the same criteria for choosing breast milk for the baby’s bath as well.
Does A Baby Need Breast Milk Bath Every Day?
There is no need for a breast milk bath every day. You can give a weekly or fortnightly bath depending on the overall health of the baby. If the baby has severe diaper rash or eczema, then you may give them a breast milk bath twice a week. You can reduce the number of baths once the baby shows improvement.
Breast milk is the ideal food for the baby. But it can also be used topically to provide that added benefit to the baby’s skin. Regular bathing with breast milk can help keep the baby’s skin healthy and also bring down the symptoms of certain skin conditions. That said, you should ensure that the breast milk used for bathing doesn’t significantly reduce the quantity of breast milk consumed by the baby.
Have you tried breast milk bath for your baby? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.
2. The Benefits of Mother’s Own Milk; Stanford’s Children Health
3. Chen et al.; An Innate Bactericidal Oleic Acid Effective Against Skin Infection of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus; The Korean Society of Microbiology and Biotechnology
4. Staphylococcus; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
5. Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health; Oregon State University
6. Kasrae H et al.; Efficacy of topical application of human breast milk on atopic eczema healing among infants: a randomized clinical trial, National Center for Biotechnology Information
7. B. Seifi et al.; Assessment Effect of Breast Milk on Diaper Dermatitis; National Center for Biotechnology Information
8. Pumping and storing breast milk; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services