• Germany's news in English

Mother's milk: A secret weapon for everything

Sabine Devins · 8 Jul 2011, 07:14

Published: 08 Jul 2011 07:14 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

One recent morning, Luisa woke up, bright and early. Grin on her mouth but snot plastered every where else. Babies get sick. Babies get colds. Babies get runny noses and I happen to have just the thing to clear that up: Breast milk.

When I was pregnant, I was given all sorts of tea-related advice on cures for my common pregnancy ailments. Fennel tea for digestion. Chamomile tea for leg cramps. A specially blended pregnancy tea for general well being. For babies, the Germans rely on good old fashioned Muttermilch.

Yes, to cure all that ails that tiny tummy (and other mini body parts), mum's boobs have the answer.

To say that nursing is encouraged here in the Fatherland would be an understatement. Even the makers of formula acknowledge on their packaging that, “Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby.”

There is even the government-funded German National Breastfeeding Institute (Nationale Stillkommission) whose responsibility is to ensure that all mothers have the facts and resources they need to successfully breastfeed.

Could you imagine if US First Lady Michelle Obama tried to implement something like that in America? She had enough troubles merely promoting the idea of breastfeeding. So many US blogs I read often talk about breastfeeding, but always with the caveat that “breastfeeding is the best choice for me and my family.”

But in Germany I have learned that breast milk cures more than just baby hunger. Six months in, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were told my chest contained the proverbial fountain of youth.

As Luisa went through her first growth spurt, she went through her first gas pains. Not to worry, my midwife said, and told me to offer her the breast. As the milk goes through her system, it would literally push the gas out the other end. Breastfeeding also relieves me of worrying about Luisa’s, ahem, “output”. As long as she was solely breastfed, anything was normal and I wasn’t to worry about it.

At four weeks, Luisa came down with a case of baby acne. I wasn’t about to swab her face with Clearasil, but I was concerned about this pile of bumps appearing on her smooth cheeks. What does my midwife recommend? Simply use Muttermilch as a cream and dab it on the worst spots as often as I liked. I’m not actually sure if it was the breast milk, but the acne cleared up within a week.

Breast milk also has healing properties. “Toe-curling pain,” was what one friend warned me to expect during the first 10 days of baby latching on to very sensitive spots to nurse. And as my nipples cracked, my toes curled.

But as we left the hospital, a doctor had reminded me that breast milk was an excellent nipple cream and “it’s safe for baby too,” she said with a smile.

Canadian Sara Read even discovered that breast milk could help with a stubborn umbilical chord. “My midwife told me to apply breast milk to Annika’s umbilical chord stub to help it come off,” she said, adding that she was sceptical at first.

“I only did it half-heartedly and when it wasn’t gone after a couple weeks, my midwife grabbed my boob, squeezed out some milk onto a q-tip, applied it to the umbilical stub and — pop! — within a matter of seconds she had worked it off with the milk-soaked swab.”

English mum Rachel Fox was told breast milk would help clear up her eldest child’s gooey eye.

Story continues below…

“He had a sticky eye infection and [the midwife] had us squirting breast milk directly into his poorly eye," she told me. "I was quite shocked initially, but it did the trick. A few days later the infection was gone. Not a chemist in sight!”

Not just eyes, but ear infections can also be cured with a good squirt of the white stuff. In fact, breast milk is a great substitute for antibiotic ointment. Cuts and scrapes heal much faster with a little bit of Muttermilch applied to them. And when a baby’s sensitive bum goes red, there is no need to reach for creams with all sorts of chemicals; just rub on some breast milk, allow to air dry and carry on.

Adults with scrapes, cuts, burns, dry skin, acne and cold sores can also benefit from the application of breast milk. Allegedly warts, insect bites, chicken pox and eczema too.

But back to Luisa’s runny nose. I’ve used my Muttermilch many times to clear up her little nose. While it’s effective, there is one problem: The application. I’ll leave you to think about the mechanics.

Sabine Devins (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:35 July 8, 2011 by german-guardian
God bless German mothers. They are the lights of Germany. Their beauty is more than the mind can imagine. Their love and grace is only found in heaven. God bless Germany, and God bless German mothers who will give birth to strong, healthy children, so they can build your kingdom and help the world with their creativeness, strength, love and passion. God bless Germany and lead her in your direction. You have always been our true father.
08:48 July 8, 2011 by delvek
My wife has been breastfeeding our 6 month old all over Germany and everyone is very accomodating and supportive wherever we might be. We always try to remain low profile but even so, when there is a sheet over a baby that is held tight to the chest it does catch peoples eye. We travel alot and the baby hasnt slowed us down, the only people who have given us odd looks, etc are in France.
09:32 July 8, 2011 by Ami-In-DE
My German wife breastfed our son for nearly a year after his birth. I wholeheartedly agree with this article although some of the 'cures' are well, questionable. Nevertheless, the medical community still does not have full knowledge of the unique qualities of breastmilk vs. bottle-fed 'formula'. I also believe there is a special bond established between mother and baby through breastfeeding that has long term positive effects on the child's relationship to his/her mother and behavioral development in general.

Lastly, it's sort of out of scope with this article but my wife, when she gave birth to our son had the placenta immediately set aside and converted into globolis--little gel-like capsules. She kept these 'magic pills' in the refridgerator and gave them to the baby whenever something was going on with him where we just didn't know what else to try.
09:37 July 8, 2011 by celined
Sure let's continue the brain wash to be sure every mother will feel guilty at one point or another. There's nothing miracle in mother's milk and until now it has not been proven that baby milk (bought one) would damage your baby.

Breastfeeding is not possible for every woman (and could you please tell me how you can breast feed for 6 month when you only have 8 weeks maternal leave?). So please stop saying that if you don't do it, you are like a devil for your children.

I really believe that it should be a personal choice and not a society choice.
10:07 July 8, 2011 by delvek
Hmm, bit defensive, wasnt trying to place any guilt.

My wife works full time, she is allowed pump breaks throughout the day where she pumps and stores the milk refrigerated. Baby is coming up on 6 months and drink 4 bottles a day at the baby care. There is no dount mothers milk is best, if you can do it then do it, if you cant I would do store bought, there is nothing wrong with it.

Chill out, it is a personal choice, just like smoking or anything else should be, but I see nothing wrong with education and the simple fact is breast milk is better if you can swing it.
10:44 July 8, 2011 by ahmdsamir
@celined brainwashing??! what are you talking about?

"The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and then supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year and up to two years or more.[9][10] "

no one was trying to put guilt on anyone.
11:00 July 8, 2011 by marimay

I hope you didn't feed your child instant formula. Or, even worse... the soy version.

I am not a mom, but even I know that stuff is horrible for babies.
11:16 July 8, 2011 by delvek
I will say soy in general is linked to significant problems with children and adults, most commonly irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
11:20 July 8, 2011 by marimay
Fermented soy is okay. Natto, tempeh, miso...
17:30 July 8, 2011 by applekat
Breastfed for 3 years. My daughter is rarely sick. She gets cold once a year, but that is about it.
18:14 July 8, 2011 by DrStrangelove
German guardian, are you high on mother's milk or something?
20:12 July 8, 2011 by farmon
@ german-guardian

Not only is that a great statement, it could be used as a great prayer!
01:05 July 9, 2011 by kkiwi54
Mothers milk - what a stupid term. Where else does milk come from if not from mother's? Proper term would be human milk.
15:11 July 9, 2011 by Englishted

My milk comes from Lidl.
14:23 July 10, 2011 by Gretl
@Celined - My first daughter almost died of starvation in the womb, and as I had a C-section, she couldn't wait for my milk to come in. I did try to pump, but output was weak, and I could never get her to latch after a bottle. My 2nd daughter breastfed for 2 months until I had pneumonia and lost my milk. My 3rd daughter breastfed for 6 months: I pumped at work, but started losing my production because I don't letdown for machines as well as staring at a little face. There is no doubt that breastmilk is best and the immunity that you pass to your children is well worth it. My 1st daughter was sick all the time, my 2nd less so, and my third not at all. Modern pressures of working outside the home (or without your child) make it more difficult, but not impossible. You obviously are carrying around guilt, and I understand that. I cried the first time I let my milk dry up. But, in the long run, your working may provide your child with a better quality of life than you otherwise could provide. But invest in a good quality pump, it will help supplement you wee one with the benefits of breastmilk while you work.
17:51 July 10, 2011 by tboz
There is absolutely no question that breast milk is best. I breastfed for three years and watched almost all the kids that were not, get sick more often, some staying sick for long periods of time, and get much sicker while my son was the only kid in the Krippe (still breastfeeding even though I was working full-time) that actually missed out entirely on horrible cycles of Magen-Darm, Swine Flu, cold after cold, and has never once in his four years had an ear infection. Whenever he did pick something up, the best thing ever as a mother was to be able to nurse him and see the comfort it brought to him and know that in max 48 hours whatever he had would be gone. Seriously. It was a sure cure. My husband didn't get it at first, but, then he totally saw that it just got rid of whatever illness that even approached. The frequency, severity and duration of what other kids had just never happened. I am still extremely grateful and thankful that I did it. And fyi, it was a HARD road and long road. I worried about production like crazy and finally found out, that is the first thing that will kill it. You HAVE to find a way (not freeking easy to do at times) to relax, not worry that your baby is starving (which is the BS that everyone tries to use to fuel fear) and it really is what changes the game. That, and LOTS of water, tea, whatever. There are very few reasons why women truly cannot breastfeed (it was hard enough that I have read every book, article, message board on the subject). It's what women were meant to do and how ALL babies survived before the advent of formula. I don't think anyone should feel bad because they don't/didn't, I do strongly believe every mother owes it to their baby AND themselves to at least give it a serious try. It's amazing in so many ways for a mother. That could easily take another long paragraph. It's hands down the best decision I've made as a parent and maybe one of the best things I've done period. Again, no guilt aimed at anyone, I'm just a hardcore advocate. I don't consider passing that on "brainwashing".
08:10 July 11, 2011 by delvek
@ Gretl and Tboz, well said.

My wife (and I) on our newborn (3rd child breastfed) were pretty concerned at first and thought we were going to have to move to store bough. She wasnt latching on correctly and my wife was having issues as well as the baby losing weight. We were so close, but my wife stuck it out just a bit more then I would have and it all came together.

Its hard on mothers who need to work, I dont dispute that, luckily my wifes employer allows her to pump at work, etc.
11:31 July 11, 2011 by celined
@delvek sorry I was not answering to your comment, but to this article :-) I'm happy to hear that your wife is able to do what she wishes to do. That's great and that's such a pity that it is not so well accepted everywhere.

@ahmdsamir there is a huge difference between "breastfeeding is the best for your child" - as stated by WHO (and I 100% agree with this) and "breast milk is a miracle" (as stated in this article). You can definitely say breastfeeding is better but I hate reading that women who don't give breast milk are bad mothers (and somehow that what this article wants us women to believe).

I believe breast milk is the best you could ever give to your child. However I also strongly believe that a woman should be able to have the choice between wanting to give her breast to her child or not (I'm talking about western countries where there is no problem in giving baby milk - I'm not talking about poor countries where water is awful). I don't see any acceptable reason to let a woman feels guilty because she is not able to give "the miracle milk" to her child (yup there are load of women out there who don't have any milk in their breast or not enough to feed their children. How do you believe they would react after reading such article?)

I strongly believe that women should have the choice because excuse me for this but pumping milk is not that easy for everyone (without even saying it can be painful). Women reading this article and not able to give breast to their child for the first 6 months will feel terribly guilty if anything happen to their babies. And this feeling will only come because of such crap and brainwashing article.... So much from a paternalist point of view.

Surprise that no one answer the women should stay at home with their children, because that's exactly the same crap (and brainwashing article).
22:05 July 11, 2011 by allyw

I don't normally comment on forum threads like this, but in this case I'll make an exception, lest anyone ever read your response and take it seriously. Your statement "there are load of women out there who don't have any milk in their breast" shows that you have absolutely no knowledge of the physiology of breastfeeding. However, this article is not about whether everyone can breastfeed. This article is about the many different ways breast milk can be used. Breastmilk contains many things that the human body produces to fight infection and promote wound healing. Since thousands of hours and millions of dollars are spent on producing pharmaceuticals for these same purposes, it seems perfectly fair for breastmilk to be called, in some sense, "miraculous". As the writer points out, the medical profession seems to have great faith in breastmilk as a treatment for various ills. Pointing this out can hardly be called "brainwashing". If, as you say, you want women to have a choice, you really must allow the writer to present her experience.

You say (with what is patently no real knowledge of breastfeeding) that breastfeeding isn't possible for some women. You then go on to argue that it should be a choice. How exactly is that possible?

If breastfeeding truly should be a choice (which it should), women need to be informed and given accurate information. It's extremely rare for women to be biologically unable to breastfeed. Done properly, pumping shouldn't be painful. It is a choice. If only more countries had the supportive breastfeeding culture that Germany has, we might have more women actually exercise the choice they have to breastfeed their babies.
02:40 July 12, 2011 by german-guardian
@ allyw

Thank you

very well explained.
14:19 July 12, 2011 by tboz
@celined- . Fyi, no one ever accused anyone of being a bad mother on this board or in this article. You need to let that drop. But, you also don't seem to have any knowledge of how breastfeeding works. I stopped short of going into that before, but, like the other posters say, there a only rare instances where a woman's body cannot produce milk or should not breastfeed for that matter. Let's get that straight because you are actually misinforming people when you say this. This article was just talking about all the ways that breastmilk can be used that no one knows about. It is a sterile liquid packed with powerful antibodies. Hello! You can use the stuff to keep your contacts. This isn't an exaggeration, it's a fact. Why is it brainwashing to actually share more information about a subject that most people are clearly lacking knowledge. So we should let people stay uninformed and misinformed about the subject for fear of making people feel guilty? Education on the subject is a benefit to to society. If it prevents some childhood illness and maybe saves someone thousands of dollars in formula costs, what's the problem (not to mention countless other benefits)? And what about the stigma directed at people that DO breastfeed? The weird looks or the lack of support from friends or family members (to put it nicely). Now THAT'S a topic also worth discussing. THIS is okay, I suppose. So people that breastfeed are fine to subjected to that for doing something that is completely natural (was perceived as such until the last 50 years or so) because we dare not educate people for fear or making them feel guilty? Sorry, but I TOTALLY miss the "you are a terrible mother if you don't breastfeed" vibe from this article. And by the way, I pumped, too, and no it was not easy, but, I wanted to do this for my baby and I was freaking determined to do it. It took a boatload of determination (and pain), in fact, before I reached the point where it became easy, but, it did. So, don't also operate under that false assumption that the women that did it did so because it was a piece of cake and they has an abundance of milk. That's also a misinformed view. Again, printing benefits about a natural and actually amazing function of the human body is not brainwashing. I'm kind thinking the formula sales is closer to brainwashing. Convincing people to spend thousands on something that almost everyone has immediate access to. Hmmm...
13:43 July 13, 2011 by mindegap
The tone of this article screams: "I spill miracle juice on my boob! Aren't I the BESTEST?"

And to certain folks in the comments section, stop giving a hard time to people who choose not to.

As Tina Fey expressed so well (on breasfeeding) in her latest book, "When people say, "You really, really, *must* so something, it means you don't really have to, No one ever says, "You really, really must deliver the baby during labor." When it's true, it doesn't need to be said."
23:12 July 13, 2011 by montanisemperliberi
My wife smoked while pregnant, didn't excercise, and didn't breastfeed. Both of my children are 99th percentile in heighth and weight. Big healthy kids. No allergies or other health issues.
09:26 July 14, 2011 by celined
Thanks @mindegap for explaining better my point of view.
17:43 July 14, 2011 by marimay
@ montanisemperliberi

No health issues.. YET..

btw, your wife sounds classy...
22:16 July 14, 2011 by german-guardian
@ marimay

Thank you
10:32 July 15, 2011 by ddoriann
After reading all of the anecdotal "evidence" expressed in these comments implying that there is a link between children getting sick and whether they were exclusively breastfed, I started sorting through my own personal database. I have several friends and family members who exculsively breastfed their children. I also know people who only formula-fed, and others, like me, who breast-fed, but had to supplement due to low supply. When I think about my friends and family members whose kids ALWAYS seem to be sick, it is those friends who were lucky enough to have a lot of milk and exclusively breastfed their kids. My kids, on the other hand, are very rarely sick, nor are the kids of many of my friends who formula-fed. I believe that the pattern in my experiential "database" is more a function of the size of the family. This makes sense, since children are disease vectors and the more of them you have in the house, the more likely you are to have one who is sick who then infects the others. I also believe that it is also very much a function of genes, and the immune systems we inherit from our ancestors. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way for mother and child to bond, but if it's not for you, and you are happier as a mommy formula feeding, then by all means don't do it. A mom who is depressed and miserable breastfeeding is way worse for the baby than not having breastmilk.
22:17 July 17, 2011 by farmon
German women are the hope of the world. The world needs all of your offspring to conquer all the problems this world faces. Keep taking excellent care of your children and give the world as many as you can.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd