It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Gets some Breastmilk in their Eyes

Does breastmilk "cure" pink eye? Possibly! Am I a doctor? Hell no! But I did put some breastmilk in my kid's eye, and it seemed to clear up his case of pink eye. Just do me a solid and talk to your care provider if you want medical advice because I'm not qualified to give it.

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It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Gets some Breastmilk in their Eyes

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Earlier this week, I woke up to find Alec (4) with a good ol’ crusty case of pink eye.  AKA conjunctivitis.  AKA an eyeball full of nastiness.  AKA one of my least favorite things in the world.

We’ve dealt with pink eye once before in our family when Miles was around two or three, and it wasn’t pretty.  His case was oozy and green and disgusting*, and I could barely bring myself to look at him* as I put the much-needed antibiotic drops in his eyes.  In fact, I think I could barely bring myself to contain my retching* whenever his gooey eyes met mine.

(*Note: I have a phobia of all things eye-related.  And by “phobia” I mean all-encompassing fear and aversion, and by “all-encompassing fear and aversion” I mean that I tend to dry-heave just watching someone put their contacts in and haven’t had my eyes examined in over sixteen years.  I know, I know, I’ll get right on that.)

Alec’s case on Tuesday was far milder than Miles’s all those years ago.  So, once I regained my composure after noticing the tell-tale gunk clogging his lashes, I decided that I would try a little experiment before calling our pediatrician for antibiotic eye drops.  It was an experiment that I’d heard friends try before, and it was one that I’d seen whisperings of on the internet.

What, pray tell, did I plan to do to treat Alec’s pink eye?  I’d pour a little breastmilk on it.

That’s right.  I decided that I would pour breastmilk into my child’s eyes.

MILK FROM MY BOOBS.  INTO HIS EYES.

I can see now that, if I’m reading my audience right, 80% of you are saying, “Right on, I get it,” 10% of you are looking at me funny but are gonna hop along for the ride, 5% of you are clicking out of your internet browser so that you can run to the nearest toilet to puke, and the other 5% of you are saying, “Well, DUH, don’t you know that breastmilk CURES EVERY DISEASE THAT EVER FACED DOWN HUMANS, INCLUDING COOTIES?!”

(Note: it doesn’t.)

Before you write me off as a total lactation-obsessed quack, allow me to explain what I thought and did before I made this decision.

  1. Duh, I looked it up on the Interwebz.  More specifically, I started out with a search for some <<jazz hands>> scientific research.  But most of the research I could find (including one extremely small study out of Nigeria) during a very quick glance at PubMed only examined the effect of colostrum and/or mature milk on ophthhalmia neonatorm (i.e. the type of conjunctivitis contracted by neonates in the birth canal when they are exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea).  And at age four, Alec doesn’t really have to worry about this particular type of conjunctivitis.
  2. I did some more searching on the Interwebz.  Turns out that while there are a number of resources and journal articles on the magic antibacterial healing properties of breastmilk, none seem to tackle treating pink eye in the non-newborn with much specificity.
  3. I did even more searching on the Interwebz.  Pink eye hit The Feminist Breeder’s family just a couple weeks ago, and she too treated little Jolene’s pink eye with some breastmilk.  And you know what?  That pink eye was done cleared up by the magic antibacterial healing properties of breastmilk.  (I feel like I should be wearing a gold lamé suit under a big revival tent when I say that.  ”YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED BY THE HEALING POWERS OF BREASTMILK!  PRAISE BE TO THE LACTATION LORD!”)
  4. But more seriously, I decided that I would only give this idea a few hours before calling the doctor for her advice.  Not to beg for antibiotics: to seek her advice.  And if that advice included taking Alec to the office so that he could be evaluated and possibly prescribed antibiotics if our doctor determined it was a bacterial (and not viral) infection?  Fine by me.  When there are honest-to-goodness bacterial infections that should be appropriately treated with antibiotics, I’m on board.  I like to mix my “natural woo” with my “pharmaceutical company drug-pushing,” ya know?  (It should be noted, however, that I have only had to pick up TWO antibiotic prescriptions for my children since I have been a parent.)

Anyway.  Back to the breastmilk-in-the-eyes situation.

Since I couldn’t find any course of action describing just how to get the milk into Alec’s eyes, I devised my own little plan.

  1. I expressed about 2 tsp. of milk into one of those medicine cups that come with children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  (I know!  I know!  I sometimes give that evil, BIG PHARMA pain relief medication to my children when they have fevers!  But do I get my earth mama cred back if I tell you that it’s right next to my garlic oil drops in the medicine cabinet?)
  2. I had Alec lay on his back with his eyes closed.
  3. I gave him two tissues, one for each hand.
  4. I poured the breastmilk onto his eyes, making sure that it covered the entire lids, including the corners/crevices.
  5. I asked Alec to open his eyes very quickly so that the milk could reach his eyeballs.
  6. He used the tissues to wipe off the breastmilk running down his cheeks.
  7. I asked him not to tell the whole neighborhood about the whole breastmilk-in-the-eyes thing when we picked Miles up from school, but he totally did anyway.
  8. I repeated the process later that evening.

And you know what?  THE HEALING POWERS OF BREASTMILK CLEARED UP THAT PINK EYE BY NOON!!!

Ahem.  I mean that there were no additional signs of his infection later that morning.  There weren’t any that evening, or the next day, or the next day either.

Now, does this mean that breastmilk was the sole cause of his infection clearing up?  Not necessarily.  It could have just been an extremely mild case of pink eye.  Or it could just be that his pink eye had just run its course at exactly the same time that I tried the ol’ breastmilk-in-the-eye trick.  (My parents later told me that they had noticed a tiny bit of discharge in his eyes over the weekend, so he probably had the infection for longer than this one morning–maybe about two or three days)

Does this mean that I would always and absolutely advocate using breastmilk as a treatment for pink eye?  Not necessarily either.  Depending on the cause of the infection, the maturity of the milk, and other unknown factors, it might be inappropriate and/or less effective than this particular instance.

But do I think that breastmilk had at least something to do with how quickly the pink eye resolved itself?  Color me pretty much convinced.  I mean, I/Alec only had to deal with a couple hours of noticeable pink eye as opposed to the days and days of pink eye that many parents and children encounter.  It was cheap, it didn’t involve us having to go to the germ-infested doctor’s office where we’d likely come home with another bug, and it truly seemed to be effective.

So reallyat my house, it is all fun and games when someone gets breastmilk in their eyes.

bright eyes (not pink eye)



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4 Comments

  1. Orchid
    Orchid12-07-2012

    I live in New Zealand, and Plunket – a non profit that provides wellness checks and health advice to just about every baby and young child in New Zealand – routinely recommend breast milk in the eyes for babies with crusty eyes. I did try this once not for pink eye, but just when my baby had a bit of discharge from his eyes. I did the straight from the boob to the eye approach, which was kind of a surreal experience, but it did seem to work.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas12-08-2012

      That’s wonderful to hear that it is being recommended from an organization like that! I do wonder if it will become more commonplace (and more well-researched) in years to come.

  2. Molly
    Molly12-07-2012

    I just love that he felt the need to make an announcement.

    Simon had some eye gunk for a while when he was a newborn, and I treated it with breastmilk. But I just squirted it right into his eye. Wiggly little things, babies, when you appear to steal their food source and then inexplicably attack their eyeballs with it.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas12-08-2012

      Yeah, I treated Eric’s eyes with some breastmilk also when he was a newborn. I think then I might have squirted it onto a cloth and then swabbed his eyes with it. I’ve never had good aim when it comes to more directed squirting…haha!

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