When it comes to feeding your newborn, doctors will tell you that breast is best. That's because breast milk is thought to provide the most amount of nutrients and antibodies to help boost your child's immune system and ward off diseases. Although studies have shown this claim to be true, the public has yet to see the beneficial properties of breast milk in action — until this week. That's why this biosciences student's breast milk experiment is so radical.
Vicky Greene, a first-year biosciences major in England, posted to her Facebook page a photo of breast milk in nine Petri dishes that also contain bacteria. In each dish, Greene has submerged small discs of two different breast milk samples — one of a mother nursing a 3-year-old and the other from a mother breastfeeding a 15-month-old — into the bacterium micrococcus luteus (or M. Luteus). The milk, Green explained, is represented by the white spot in the middle, while the germ is the speckled off-white liquid that surrounds it. And around the white blotch is a clear ring. In in that parameter, Greene wrote, is where the proof of breast milk's infection-fighting abilities lies.
"See the clear bit around the discs," Greene writes in her photo caption, "that's where the proteins in the milk have inhibited off the bacteria! I'm so excited!!!"
According to Scary Mommy, Greene's post quickly went viral after she uploaded the image of her breast milk experiment to Facebook on Monday evening. To date, the photo has received more than 20,000 shares and more than 3,300 comments. Most people expressed shock and amazement at what Greene discovered, while some others have asked the biosciences student for more information on her research. "I would love to see the control groups," one person commented on Thursday afternoon. "Discs soaked in water, discs soaked in Formula. To round out the picture."
This experiment is the third in Greene's microbiology research project. Greene noted that she tried the breast milk experiment with the bacteria E. coli and MRSA and had yielded the same results. In the next couple of weeks, Green plans to test out her research with colostrum, the yellow breast milk produced during pregnancy and through the early days of chestfeeding. According to the La Leche League, colostrum has higher levels of protein and lower levels of sugar and fat than mature breast milk, so it would be interesting to see what effect increased protein would have on killing off bacteria.
Although Greene's experiments proves that breast milk is powerful, it shouldn't be forgotten that not every parent can or wants to chestfeed. A person who doesn't nurse or stops nursing before six months should not be judged or shamed for their decision. How you choose to feed your child is an incredibly personal decision that is that parent's and that parent's alone.
Correction: A previous version of this article identified the white spot as the bacterium and the speckled liquid as breast milk, which is incorrect. The article has been updated with the correct information. Romper regrets the errors.