It’s been a long time since I expressed breast milk on a daily basis for Jonah. It used to be a regular thing for me to have the Haakaa breast pump swinging from one breast whenever Jonah was attached to the other. I could leave some milk for him while my husband had him for an hour, and I’d take some much needed self-care time in the form of pilates classes.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m done with classes now, feeling fully recovered from pregnancy and birth, and feeling like running around after my steam train toddler is just about as much physical exertion as I can handle.
This week, Jonah’s had a few stubborn spots across his cheeks. It’s been two weeks since his one year immunisation jabs. A rash is a symptom of the MMR immunisation once the measles part of the jab kicks in. We weren’t sure – it could’ve been a mild measles rash, or just some other flare up. Somewhere along the line I heard that breast milk could help with skin complaints, so we thought we’d give a breast milk bath a try, and have a look at the benefits of breast milk to the skin.
The timing was good because we found a couple of Medela pump and save bags stashed at the back of the freezer, dated from February. Breast milk lasts about six months in the freezer once stored in a freezer bag, but it wasn’t looking too appetising, with some cloudy patches on the bags. I had to question how fresh it was, and whether or not the little connoisseur would enjoy it.
Wait, what’s a breast milk bath?
You literally bathe in breast milk. Watered down, of course! Your little one will be feeling like a mini Cleopatra. Breast milk in skincare is actually a big thing! From breast milk facials to curing hormonal acne with breast milk, to treating all kinds of skin complaints – it really is a wonderful substance for nourishing and healing both inside and out.
How can a breast milk bath help my skin?
Here are four common skin complaints mummy and baby can suffer from, where a breast milk bath can help:
1. Acne and spots
Lucky for Jonah, breast milk can help with outbreaks of acne. This is down to breast milk containing lauric acid, also found in coconut oil, which has has antibacterial and acne-fighting qualities.
2. Dry skin, cracked and sore nipples
Breast milk is comprised 4.5% fats, some of which can be found in expensive top end moisturisers. Isn’t it fascinating that these fats can be found in breast milk?
- Palmitic acid, the saturated fatty acid most abundant in the human body, and a good moisturiser and occlusive agent, meaning it locks moisture into the skin.
- Oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, and the second most abundant in human tissue. It is moisturising, anti-ageing, and helps soothe dry skin.
- Vaccenic acid, a trans-fatty acid molecularly related to sea buckthorn oil.
- Conjugated linoleic acid, used in skin care products to boost moisture, reduce inflammation, and lighten skin tone.
It turns out breast milk could be a cheap and easy way to improve dry skin. Obviously, the best way to soft, well hydrated skin is through eating a balanced diet, including the right kinds of fat, but some extreme situations require intensive treatment through topical application, for instance treating dry and cracked nipples.
3. Nappy rash, stings, bites, cuts, and irritations
Breast milk is naturally antiseptic and aids healing due to the presence of antibody IgA. Applying breast milk topically is going to give the best results, since it won’t be watered down. However, a breast milk bath may be a better choice if there’s a large area of affected skin, for instance with rashes. The whole body can be covered in a lot less time. A bath gives a wonderful therapeutic feeling, with the water being very soothing in itself.
4. Psoriasis, eczema, and cradle cap
Anecdotal advice has been passed down generations to use breast milk topically to treat psoriasis, eczema and cradle cap. Kim Kardashian uses breast milk on her psoriasis, and while breast milk is obviously not a cure for the root cause of any of these skin conditions, it can help with moisturising, preventing infection, and promoting healing of skin that becomes damaged due to scratching, chafing and rubbing.
Check out some more exciting uses for breast milk that go beyond feeding your baby.
Now we’ve seen how helpful a breast milk bath can be, let’s make one!
How to make a breast milk bath
- Choose some breast milk, either from the freezer or freshly pumped (see how much breast milk to use, below).
- Run the bath. Using less water will increase the concentration of breast milk, but you still want as much skin as possible in the water, so use enough breast milk to make it worthwhile.
- Empty the breast milk into the water, and swirl to ensure it’s thoroughly mixed in.
- Sit back, relax, and be sure to swish the bath water over limbs, neck and other parts the water won’t reach – pour over the head if you’re using the bath to help with cradle cap.
How much breast milk to use?
We used six ounces which is 170ml. The water should look cloudy, so experiment with more or less water. The greater the concentration of breast milk to water, the more potent the bath will become. However your little one may end up smelling a bit milky afterwards if the water is very milky!
Here are some more pictures from our breast milk bath so you can see how milky it should be.
Did the breast milk bath help?
Jonah seemed to enjoy his bath. His spots cleared up a day or two later, but I’m not sure whether the bath had much to do with this. I’d be interested to try breast milk lotions and butters which would apply a greater concentration of breast milk to the skin, or simply dab his spots with breast milk. The breast milk bath felt very luxurious, and is a great way to use up expired breast milk. As we’ve seen, there are so many benefits to topically applied breast milk, it is sure to do some good.
Have you tried a breast milk bath? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!