Oversupply Of Breast Milk? Five Uses For It, From A Milk Bath To Feeding Plants To Making Jewellery
Rather than selling breast milk, Hong Kong mothers have been finding innovative ways to use their excess milk, from creating jewellery to feeding plants.
As new mothers know, successful breastfeeding can lead to an abundant supply of milk which must be stored for a later date in the freezer.
But as this milk gets closer to its expiry date ” the US-based Mayo Clinic suggests it can last up to a year in the back of a deep freeze, but using it within six months is best ” parents can be left wondering what to do with it.
There is even a growing black market for breast milk as athletes and body builders scramble to get this “liquid gold” protein to help build muscle bulk.
Rather than sell it, Hong Kong mothers have been finding innovative ways to use their excess breast milk, from creating jewellery to feeding plants.
1. Milk bath
Stephanie Zhu from the New Territories added breast milk to her daughter’s bath to help treat eczema on her face and back. She pours 180ml of breast milk into Charlotte Lee’s lukewarm bath water, letting her soak in the milky, cloudy water for an extra couple of minutes, twice a week.
“My daughter developed eczema when she was about a month old. I was amazed how quick the results were. Her eczema started to clear up after a week and it was completely healed when she was a little over two months old. Adding breast milk to the bath also made her skin super soft,” says Zhu.
Michelle Resco, a midwife and neonatal nurse at Annerley Midwives Clinic in Hong Kong’s Central district, says putting breast milk into bath water is a great way to disperse essential oils. However, she warns the scientific evidence for this is still limited.
A 2015 study in Iran assessed 116 babies with eczema, giving half human breast milk and half hydrocortisone ointment applied to the affected skin for 21 days and compared the results. The researchers concluded that the milk application was beneficial, and as effective as the hydrocortisone.
“Although there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of breast milk application to wounds, sticky eyes and skin conditions such as nappy rash and eczema, there is little scientific evidence to support it,” Resco says.
2. Body lotion and face masks
Mother-of-two Serena Eze from Whampoa in Kowloon turned her breast milk into a body lotion and face mask to use while away on business trips.
“I needed to keep pumping my breast milk even in Germany so I could keep feeding my three-month-old son Spencer when I went back to Hong Kong,” she says.
“I used to mix it with some essential oils when I was in Germany, then apply it on my whole body after a shower. I also used it to mix with some natural ingredients to form a face mask.”
She continued to do this for six months and found the home-made product made her skin feel moisturised and smooth.
3. Nurturing houseplants
After using breast milk on her son’s head to treat cradle cap, a skin rash on a newborn’s scalp, Jade Poon began adding milk to her baby Nathaniel’s bath from four weeks old.
When Poon, from Kennedy Town, posted on Instagram that she was giving her son a milk bath, a friend in New York suggested she also feed her plants with it.
“Since I was busying adjusting to life with two kids, my plants needed some tender loving care and we all know breast milk is packed with nutrients. So instead of letting the milk bath water down the drain, I used some of it to water my plants.”
Once every couple of weeks she dilutes leftover milk with an ounce of water and feeds it to her jade, aloe vera, Devil’s Ivy and Pinstripe plants.
“They are still alive and thriving. Some were on the verge of dying and I was able to resurrect them,” she says.
4. Keepsake jewellery
In recent years companies that turn breast milk into jewellery have been springing up across Hong Kong, such as Cuddle and Love Made Me. They make a mixture of liquid and solid milk jewellery such as necklaces, pendants, earrings and rings.
Helen She wanted to keep a memento of her breastfeeding time with her first child, so she had two breast milk necklaces made. Mixing additives to the milk means the keepsakes can be kept for a lifetime.
5. Donation and use as a foodstuff
One of the most beneficial uses for excess breast milk is to donate it to a baby in need, particularly those in premature baby units in hospitals.
Resco says: “The properties of breast milk can be life-saving. For preterm babies, breast milk has been found to reduce the risk of NEC (an inflammatory gut condition), sepsis, chronic lung disease, retinopathy of prematurity, and re-hospitalisation. Unfortunately breastfeeding and milk expression can be very challenging for mothers of preterm babies. They are often experiencing extreme stress and find themselves unable to express enough milk.”
Since there is no formal milk bank in Hong Kong, some mothers have been sharing their milk donations via Facebook. Although well-intentioned, this comes with a lot of risks attached.
“Milk outside the breast is not considered sterile any more, so informal milk sharing or other methods outside donating through an official bank poses health risks,” Hong Kong midwife Pascale Maitre says. “Milk administered from a breast pump contains higher levels of potentially harmful opportunistic pathogens and viruses can be transmitted through breast milk like hepatitis, HIV, CMV and many more.”
If it is not possible to donate milk to your local prenatal unit there are food options, says Resco.
“It can be used like regular milk ” in cereal, sauces and cooked foods. You can even make ice cream, yogurt or cheese with it. It can also be put to great use as soothing milk Popsicles for when the teething begins.”
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.