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Redness or discoloration, blotches, bumps, and peeling — the uncomfortable symptoms of eczema. And it’s not just an adult condition: According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, eczema can impact up to 25 percent of children.

Although newborns typically have some baby acne, when babies experience eczema symptoms, it might affect them and their parents. Parents may feel a need to relieve eczema quickly. There are many home remedies to try to potentially alleviate eczema symptoms.

One commonly attempted home remedy for infant eczema? Breast milk. (Some parents may even apply breast milk to their own adult skin flare-ups.)

Frequently referred to as liquid gold, breast milk is a dynamic liquid whose properties are constantly adapting to provide essential nutrients and protection from illness.

And because human milk includes bacterial probiotics, a protein-lipid complex called human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells (HAMLET), and even stem cells, its benefits for more than just digestive health have been a topic of scientific study.

Does this research show that breast milk is an effective solution to relieve eczema in babies and adults? Let’s take a look.

Breast milk has long been known to support good gut health, and many of the same biological components that help with this seem to make breast milk effective in promoting more outward forms of health as well.

One 2019 research review found breast milk as effective as hydrocortisone cream in treating eczema. This research is further supported by studies that show similar positive results in treating diaper rash with breast milk, too.

Researchers note that breast milk has additional benefits over creams in that it’s typically free, easily accessible, and doesn’t pose the same risk of side effects that some creams do.

Breast milk can be applied to the skin in a variety of ways (with a range of frequencies), and how you choose to do so may be dictated by the size of the affected area, your supply, and personal preferences.

Because breast milk’s properties may also help with umbilical cord and eye care, some parents choose to be more liberal in their application — while supply issues and other considerations may lead some people to limit application. It’s a good idea to speak with your medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.

In babies

There are a variety of ways that breast milk can be applied/used to help babies’ skin:

  • Breast milk baths. If supply isn’t an issue, you might consider adding 150 to 300 milliliters to your little one’s bath water. The bath water will probably look a little cloudy, but your baby’s skin will soak up the breast milk’s hydrating benefits as they bathe. (Don’t forget to use a baby moisturizer after to help lock in those nutrients!)
  • Spot treatment. Direct application of breast milk to irritated skin areas is another treatment option. Simply apply some breast milk to a cloth or cotton ball and lightly wipe over the irritated area.

If you’re choosing to use breast milk as a diaper rash treatment, the same application styles work.

In adults

Adults can apply breast milk to treat eczema in similar ways. The same properties that make it useful in treating eczema in children may be helpful in treating eczema in adults.

For safety reasons, non-nursing adults might want to consider discussing their plan to use breast milk with their health professional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that while the risk of transmission of disease from breast milk is low, health professionals can help evaluate any case-specific considerations.

Breast milk can be useful for more than just eczema in adults. Especially in the early days of breastfeeding, the process may be painful. Whether it’s due to a poor latch or a too tight fitting bra, it’s not uncommon to experience cracked and irritated nipples. A common home remedy for this is rubbing the last drops of breast milk on them at the end of each feeding session.

While it’s a popular home remedy, consider talking with your doctor about using breast milk to treat eczema. They may be able to offer additional guidance. And, if breast milk doesn’t help the eczema (or eczema worsens), your doctor might offer suggestions for other treatment options.

If your breast milk is coming through a donor, you might want to consider making sure it’s safe to use. Learning more about the donor/donation process and speaking with your doctor can help you make an informed decision.

Because breast milk is full of nutrients and special properties like stem cells and bacterial probiotics, it’s useful for more than just keeping your baby’s stomach full.

If you find that you or your baby is experiencing eczema, breast milk may offer a free solution without the potential side effects of manufactured creams. Its effectiveness is even supported by research studies.

But consider talking with your doctor though before trying any eczema remedies. It may be helpful to keep them in the loop and get their advice.