We break down the benefits of breastmilk baths for eczema babies, and walk you through steps and tips for giving your baby a milk bath.
Breastmilk has many benefits for your baby, including ideal amounts of nutrients and immunity-boosting antibodies.
But the benefits of breastmilk for your baby go beyond breastfeeding. If your baby has eczema (atopic dermatitis), a milk bath is one way to soothe their skin. A milk bath is a baby bath with some of your breastmilk added into the water.
Today, we'll break down the benefits of milk baths for eczema babies, and walk you through steps and tips for giving your baby a milk bath.
The Benefits Of Milk Baths
The vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats in breastmilk are very similar to the ingredients in skin moisturizers.
Since keeping baby's skin moisturized is so vital to eczema care, it makes sense that the moisturizing properties of breastmilk benefit eczema babies' skin.
Some key moisturizing agents in breastmilk include:
- Lauric acid (both a moisturizer and antibacterial)
- Palmitic acid
- Oleic acid
Breastmilk also contains linoleic acid, which both moisturizes and helps reduce inflammation. So, it may help soothe baby's eczema flare-ups.
In addition, breastmilk contains antibodies that help fight off illnesses and infections. Most notably, it contains immune-boosting IgA (immunoglobulin A) antibodies. These IgA antibodies don't just benefit baby inside their body. They can also help stop skin infections, like staph infections, that are associated with eczema. Plus, IgA antibodies have anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight flares.
Although more studies on breastmilk and eczema treatment are needed, a 2015 randomized clinical study showed that breastmilk treated mild to moderate baby eczema just as effectively as hydrocortisone 1% ointment.
Learn tips for bathing baby safely from Johnson & Johnson:
How To Give A Milk Bath
Now that you know the benefits of a milk bath for eczema babies, here's how to give one. You won't need much breastmilk at all for your baby to reap the benefits!
- You can use freshly pumped, refrigerated, or frozen breastmilk for a milk bath. But if you decide to use frozen breastmilk, let it thaw before adding it to baby's bath. That way, it won't affect baby's bath temperature.
- Run a warm (not hot) bath for baby, as you would for a standard bath.
- Measure out 150-350 ml of the pumped breastmilk and add it to baby's bath. You'll want to use just enough breastmilk to make the water look milky or cloudy. But you should still be able to see the shape of baby's body under the water surface.
- Let baby soak in the milky water for 5-15 minutes. During the bath, make sure to sprinkle the milky water all over baby's body.
- Pay special attention to the most eczema-affected areas --- make sure those areas are well-moisturized!
- Take baby out of the bath --- no need to rinse.
- Gently pat baby dry, to leave some of the moisture on their skin.
- Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes after the bath, to seal the moisture, and the other beneficial properties of the milk bath, into baby's skin.
Breastmilk Bath Tips
- Talk to your pediatrician or dermatologist before you start giving baby milk baths. They can help you determine how often to give a breastmilk bath. Usually, twice a week is beneficial, but your doctor's recommendation takes priority.
- If you plan to use frozen breastmilk for the bath, you can measure out and freeze special "bath portions" so your feeding milk doesn't go to waste.
- You can also use expired breastmilk in a breastmilk bath. As long as it doesn't smell bad, it's good to bathe baby in. Be sure to mark it for the bath, though, so you remember it's no longer safe to feed baby.
- For added benefits to baby's skin, try combining an oatmeal bath with a breastmilk bath.
- If you suffer from engorgement and need to express more milk, you can set aside some of that milk for the bath.
- If you're worried about your milk supply, and wonder if you have enough to bathe baby with regularly, remember that feeding and pumping regularly is the best way to increase your supply. You can also try these tips, or talk to a lactation consultant.
- If baby's eczema doesn't improve after regular breastmilk baths, talk to your pediatrician or dermatologist.
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