Your Breast Milk Knows When Your Baby Is Sick & Responds With Superhuman Strength

Ad failed to load

If you're a nursing mom, you've probably been told by your pediatrician that the best thing you can do when your baby is sick is to keep on breastfeeding. But did you know that in addition to providing your ailing little one with the antibodies and calories she needs to get well, nursing can actually tip you off to the fact that she's sick in the first place? It's true: Your breast milk can even be the first red flag that your baby has the flu.

You might have seen a viral photo on Facebook illustrating this fact. Posted by Paige Peterson, a mom whose baby daughter Raina had recently tested positive for flu, the pic shows two bags of breast milk, side by side: One that was pumped a couple of weeks before her daughter fell ill, and one that was pumped over the weekend when Raina got sick. As Peterson wrote in her caption, she "didn't believe the nurse when she told me because she hasn't had any symptoms of flu that I have noticed." Peterson never gave her daughter Tamiflu, and apparently wasn't suffering from the flu herself. If not for the positive swab, she might never have known Raina had the bug. Yet the difference between the two pouches of milk reveals the truth:

Ad failed to load

See that incredible difference in color? As a study in Pediatric Research confirmed, “immunilogic factors in breast milk [can] change in response to nursing infants’ infection.” But the fascinating part is that while Peterson didn't even know her baby was sick when Raina tested positive for the flu, her body somehow did (and was already working to combat the virus). Since Raina wasn't showing any symptoms, Peterson's breast milk was actually the first sign that her baby had the flu. So what should you be looking for in your own breast milk if you're worried your baby might come down with something? And how does your body figure this stuff out without you even knowing?

If your breast milk suddenly looks like it did right after your baby was born, when you were producing nutrient-dense colostrum (otherwise known as "liquid gold"), it could be a pretty solid tip-off that something is up.

"Not only is it possible, it's even probable, that when a breastfeeding mother or her breastfeeding baby becomes ill, the appearance of the breast milk being produced changes," Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., board-certified OB-GYN and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vista East Medical Center in Waukegan, Illinois, told SELF.

Ad failed to load

Doctor Abdur-Rahman went on to explain that whenever a bodily fluid contains a high amount of white blood cells, "it will assume a yellowish color." And as the American Association of Pregnancy explains on its website, yellowish colostrum is also high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals — all things your baby will need to stay strong and fight the flu. Peterson is far from the first mom to notice that her breast milk looked different when her baby was sick, naturally. A couple of years ago, mom Mallory Smothers also had a viral sensation on her hands when she posted an almost identical side-by-side comparison photo to the one Peterson posted:

Amazing. Smothers also brings up a fascinating aspect of this bodily process in her post: The backwash theory. As a result of their investigations into how a mother's body knows when her baby is sick and adjusts her milk accordingly, some scientists believe that breast milk's immune-boosting properties may depend in part on the "backwash" (a mix of milk and saliva) that flows back into the breast when a baby is nursing, causing a mother's body to "create made-to-order immune factors that are delivered back to the baby in milk," as reported by Science News.

Ad failed to load

All of this said, if your breastmilk appears more daffodil-tinted than usual but your baby seems to be feeling fine, there's not necessarily any reason to panic. And if you're not in the habit of pumping, there's no need to start just so you can keep tabs on the color of your milk.

"A lot of moms will never notice color changes in their breast milk because they pump infrequently or not at all," certified lactation consultant Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, CLC, tells Romper.

"Milk pumped earlier in the day is often more white looking, and milk pumped in the later afternoon is often more yellow," Spradlin adds.

Ad failed to load

"Food dyes in mom’s diet can impact milk color too. Milk doesn’t have to change color in order to have a higher concentration of certain protective factors."

So no matter where your breastmilk falls on the color spectrum, you can rest assured that your body is calibrating its nutritional value to meet your baby's exact needs at that moment. But while, as we said, there's no need to freak out over a new hue, it is flu season — so if you do notice something different, it couldn't hurt to keep your eyes open for other potential symptoms.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills