Breast Milk for Ear Infections: Does It Work + Breast Milk Facts
Breast milk is the stuff of good things not only for feeding babies but it has amazing healing properties as well. If you’ve been around nursing moms or participated in breastfeeding forums, it is highly likely that you may have caught up on this. The talk about using breast milk as a natural home remedy for a handful of maladies in children has long been around. This may sound like crazy witchcraft but using breast milk for ear infections has been buzzing around as a cure for this condition in babies.
Ear Infection Facts
Ear infection or medically referred to as otitis media is mostly a middle ear infection that develops behind the eardrum. This condition is quite common in children aged 6 months to 3 years old. An ear infection is not contagious and not a serious condition.
The presence of bacteria causes middle ear infections. The eustachian tube connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat harbors these germs due to nasal passage congestion, swelling of the eustachian tube and the throat brought about by some other illness such as colds, flu or allergies.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
These symptoms may appear in both children and adults:
- Ear pain ( most often when lying down )
- Fussiness /crying
- Tugging at the ear
- Fluid drain/discharge from the ear
- Loss of balance
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
Mode of Treatments
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends the following for the treatment of acute otitis media :
Wait and See
Most ear infections usually subside and go away even without treatment. The wait and see approach allows the infection to improve on its own in a week or two at the most.
Wait period of fewer than 48 hrs: children aged 6 months to 23 months suffering from mild pain in one ear and a body temperature of less than 39 C
Wait period of 48 – 72 hrs: children 2 yrs and older with mild pain in one or both ears and a temperature of less than 39 C
Always consult your doctor after the observation period to assess the need for antibiotics. Your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics if your child is 6 months or older and is suffering from moderate to severe pain in one or both ears and a temperature that runs higher than 39 C.
For children younger than 6 months, antibiotic treatment is recommended even without an initial observation waiting period.
Ear tube drain
Certain conditions afflicting the child may require a procedure that will drain the fluid build-up in the middle ear. This is usually the recommendation if the child has repeated or long term middle ear infections which causes a continuous build-up of fluid in the ear even after the infection has been treated. This medical an outpatient surgical procedure referred to as a Myringotomy where the doctor makes a tiny hole in the eardrum to be able to suction the fluid out of the middle ear. A tube is then placed through the opening to aid in ventilating the middle ear and prevent against fluid build-up.
In some cases, the tube is kept in place for six months to a year and left to naturally fall out on it own. However, other tubes are made to be kept much longer and will need surgery to remove them.. Eardrums do naturally close up when the tubes are removed.
Breast Milk for Ear Infections: A Natural Remedy?
Since studies and evidence have also shown antibiotic resistance of bacteria, people have resorted to the use of natural remedies and homeopathic treatment. One of the most commonly talked about natural remedies for an ear infection is breast milk. This is mainly because breast milk contains copious levels of anti-bacterial and anti-infective agents that help boost the immune system of babies.
It is said that human breast milk has a lot of similarities with unstructured living tissue such as blood that has the capacity to break down harmful pathogens, boost immunity and deliver nutrients. According to the Anardottir study, its conclusions state that breast milk that is applied in the ear canal could be effective against bacteria causing ear infections. However, this may only hold true if the infection is in the outer portion of the ear canal.
Pain caused by an inflamed ear infection is soothed by an application of a warm compress. Hence, why some mothers may have come to the conclusion that freshly expressed breast milk drops in their baby’s ear relieves pain. The fact is, breast milk cannot pass through the eardrum to reach the bacteria build-up. Although breast milk is loaded with antibacterial properties, there is a possibility that it could get trapped in the ear and decay. This, by itself, will attract bacteria.
Pediatricians advice doing the wait and see approach to give the immune system enough time to fight the infection and treat the infection with the following natural remedies :
- Warm compress held behind the child’s ear to relieve and soothe the pain
- Fluids to encourage swallowing that helps drain the middle ear and relieve ear pressure.
- Over the counter fever and pain meds for babies older than 6 months.
Other Breast Milk Benefits
Some newborns develop acne after a few weeks of being born, Although this condition clears up on its own, a cotton ball soaked in fresh breast milk applied over the baby’s skin will help clear up the baby acne.
Due to the sensitive nature of the baby’s skin, it is easy for them to develop dry skin. This can turn into eczema and can become severe if left untreated. Applying breast milk on the affected skin helps protect it from further inflammation and infection. However, if the condition is severe, a doctor’s supervision and medication may be prescribed.
Trapped moisture from sweat and diaper use usually encourages rashes to develop. A cotton ball soaked in breast milk and applied over your baby’s bottom can help soothe the irritation and prevent the rash from spreading.
To help relieve that pain of teething, make frozen breast milk popsicles. You can even add in some fruits if your baby is ready for solids.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Babies commonly have crusty tear ducts in their first early months. This is caused by blocked tear ducts. A few drops of breast milk on the tear ducts will help treat this condition naturally.
Cracked or Sore Nipples
Not only can babies benefit from their mother’s milk but their mamas can also find relief from cracked and sore nipples by rubbing breast milk onto the affected nipples. This will help soften the skin and soothe the pain from the dry cracked skin tissues. However, if your nipple skin irritation is caused by yeast or thrush infection, it is best not to apply breast milk as the natural sugar content of breast milk might worsen the condition. Always make sure to consult your doctor soon as you notice a change in your nipples when you are breastfeeding.