Many new moms are surprised to discover there are other uses for breast milk beyond simply feeding their baby, says independent nursing and midwifery consultant Prof Diana du Plessis. “It’s well known that breast milk has healing properties and benefits for the growth and development of a baby primarily because of what it contains,” she says.
4 benefits of breast milk for your baby’s skin
Moisturises the skin and fights dry skin
The fat content of breast milk includes fats that are primary ingredients of cosmetics like skin moisturisers, and are highly beneficial for skin and hair.
Breast milk contains palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid, that’s an excellent moisturiser. It also contains an omega fatty acid called oleic acid, which moisturises and heals dry skin. (It’s also said to fight the signs of ageing – so nothing wrong with dabbing some of that “liquid gold” under your eyes when you bath baby!)
Helps with acne
Breast milk contains lauric acid, which is a fatty acid also found in coconut oil. It has antibacterial properties which can help fight baby acne. These breakouts develop on your baby because of your hormones still circulating in her blood. It also helps fade dark spots and discolouration on the skin.
Also Read: The world of baby skin
Helps with cradle cap and eczema
Many new moms are advised to use expressed breast milk to relieve cradle cap and eczema in their young babies. “Simply rub a little milk on the affected area or give your baby a milk bath,” says Diana.
Also Read: How parents can get rid of cradle cap
Can help with nappy rash
Breast milk can also help ease the pain of nappy rash and speed up the healing process. You can squirt some breast milk on the affected area, or bath baby in some breast milk. However, Diana cautions that if the nappy rash is caused by an outbreak of thrush, it’s best to avoid the milk bath.
“Breast milk contains vaccenic, linoleic, palmitic and oleic acid, acknowledged as the best treatment for dry and irritated skin. It’s also why breast milk baths are so beneficial for your baby’s skin,” says Diana.
Also Read: 5 Tips for caring for your baby’s skin
How to give a breast milk bath
Giving your baby a milk bath is as easy as it sounds.
- Simply fill your baby’s bath with warm water as you usually would and add some expressed breast milk. “For the milk bath to be effective, you need to add enough breast milk to make the water look cloudy and milky,” says Diana. She adds that the diluted solution of breast milk and water has not been studied yet, so it’s not possible to recommend an actual dosage.
- You can use fresh, frozen or expired breast milk for this bath.
- Swish the water around to spread it out, and allow your baby to play or relax in the milk bath for at least a few minutes.
- Pour the milk and water over your baby’s body, arms and legs, paying extra attention to any irritated areas.
- Take your baby out of the bath and gently pat him dry, without rinsing. This allows the breast milk to continue penetrating their skin.
More about the expert:
Professor Diana du Plessis is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Fort Hare in the Masters of Public Health and Albertina Sisulu Leadership programme. She held the position of senior lecturer in Midwifery and Neonatology at the University of the Free State and University of Johannesburg from 1982 until 2010 after which she established herself as an independent nursing and midwifery consultant for private hospitals and universities. She has a private antenatal and postnatal practice, Baby Wise Childbirth Education Centre, in Fourways, Johannesburg. Learn more about Prof Diana du Plessis here.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.