Does Drinking Your Own Breast Milk Prevent You From Getting Sick?

The Kardashians are known to shill some pretty problematic wellness ideas, from skinny teas to waist trainers. And there’s no shortage of documentation on social media.

The latest health experiment came from Kourtney Kardashian, who posted an Instagram story on Wednesday saying she was trying a rather homemade remedy to ward off sickness: breast milk.

“I just pounded a glass of breastmilk because I feel sick 🤧 goodnight!” Kardashian wrote. (Her youngest son, Rocky, was born in November.)

The concept may not be totally out of left field if you’re a parent. It’s well-known that breast milk contains essential nutrients and antibodies that help babies build up their immune systems and protect them from getting sick. The idea that it can help adults as well isn’t new. Some supplement companies are even creating human milk capsules that claim to help with immunity, digestion and more, but the effectiveness is unknown.

Given that this idea has been around for a while ― and that Kardashian seems to trust it ― does this mean this cold-preventing method is actually legit? The short answer: most likely not.

“Breast milk would not help adults fight infections and would not improve your immune system,” said Dr. Arik Alper, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Yale Medicine in Connecticut.

“There are antibodies in breast milk that can help with viruses, but an adult should have enough immunoglobulins in their body and doesn’t need extra immunoglobulins in oral liquids,” Alper said.

There simply is not enough research to confirm whether drinking breast milk can help you ward off illness, according to Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN at Orlando Health Women’s Institute Center of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Florida. The little evidence we do have isn’t compelling enough to justify overwhelming support from many experts.

“Because we don’t have any studies on that, I can’t recommend for or against it,” Greves said.

Moreover, there might even be risks to drinking breast milk as an adult, especially if it isn’t your own. In the case of consuming someone else’s breast milk, infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and HIV can be passed through bodily fluids, including breast milk. There are even risks with drinking your own, Greves said. Is it coming from a clean pumping system? Are you refrigerating it? Bacteria spread can happen whether it’s your own breast milk or not.

Given there are many unknowns and safety questions surrounding the consumption of breast milk, it is not a good idea to drink it. Plus, without research backing its benefits, you likely will still be coming down with that cold even after “pounding a glass.”

When not stored properly, breast milk can be dangerous to consume.

Jamie Grill via Getty Images

When not stored properly, breast milk can be dangerous to consume.

Better Ways To Ward Off Illness

It’s best to follow the well-known, science-backed methods for preventing and treating sickness.

If you end up coming down with a cold, rest is paramount, and so is staying hydrated and eating a nutritious diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consuming warm liquids, like soup and tea, can also be helpful, in addition to over-the-counter cold medications to combat congestion or a cough.

“I usually recommend if someone’s feeling sick or rundown, try to evaluate the underlying cause,” Greves said.

If you’re breastfeeding, for example, you’re likely also taking care of a baby and completely exhausted. Maybe you need to drink more water or maybe you need help prepping well-balanced meals. “Reach out to someone you trust to see if they can help give you a little break from taking care of the baby,” Greves suggested.

“And if you are exposed to a bug, then it’s perfectly possible that your immune system is down,” Greves added, because of the lack of sleep that’s associated with this time in life.

There is no secret ingredient for staying healthy or getting over an illness. Instead, it’s important to follow the proven techniques to stay well.

Comments are closed.