There is a rumor suggesting that squirting a small amount of breast milk into your infant’s eye could cure eye infections. Many mothers feel more confident using breast milk, a natural substance, in place of medical treatment, like antibiotics. However, is breast milk an effective medical treatment for eye infections?

Keep in mind that goopy, drippy eyes affected by blocked tear ducts or cold symptoms go away on their own without any treatment or intervention.  There is no need to use breast milk as a remedy in the case of a cold or blocked duct.

Breast Milk As Medicine

Breast milk is an essential addition to your infant’s health, as you likely already know. It is full of nutrients, immune-building blocks, and beneficial bacteria. It isn’t the end of the earth if your infant does not receive breastmilk during the entirety of their infancy. However, the longer you can provide these benefits to your baby, the better.

The practice of using breast milk for eye infections, as well as for other conditions, has been a folk medicine remedy for millennia.  But does science support using breast milk for infections?

Medical Research

Surprisingly, studies have shown that the beneficial bacteria in breast milk is effective against certain strains of gonorrhea. However, it is not effective against all bacterial eye infections.  Also, it typically does not eradicate the infection and only seems to suppress it. If your infant’s eye infection goes untreated, they could develop long-term eye damage.

Many parts of the developing world do not have broad access to the antibiotics necessary to treat bacterial infections. Breast milk may be used by some mothers who do not have access to the medical care that they require. In this case, breast milk truly is better than nothing.

For example, ophthalmia neonatorum is a gonorrhea infection of the eye that is common in infants. Mothers often pass the gonorrhea infection to their child’s eye during vaginal birth.  Breastmilk can suppress the gonorrhea infection, though antibiotic eye drops are typically required.   Please visit our Eye Drops at Birth blog for more information.

Breast Milk for Other Infections

An additional claim is that breast milk can be squirted into the ear canal to treat ear infections. Breast milk is unable to cross past the eardrum to get to the bacteria in the middle ear.

Also, some mothers claim that breast milk helps with their child’s eczema. There is no scientific evidence supporting the use of breast milk as a topical treatment for eczema. However, when compared to treatment with hydrocortisone 1% treatment, breast milk was as effective for topical treatment.

Mothers also use breast milk in the nostril for rhinitis in infants.  Mothers who have used breast milk in this manner found that it brought a “positive effect.” However, scientifically, there is no evidence supporting this claim.

Any support for using breast milk as a treatment is purely anecdotal at this time and has little to no scientific support. However, we often tell our GHT families to use the methods that work for them.  We warn against anything that could cause harm to your child. Please discuss remedies you aren’t sure about with your pediatric healthcare provider first.