Can a COVID-19 infection really turn breast milk green?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Can COVID-19 Infection Turn Breast Milk Green?!
A mother of two, Ashmiry, just went viral after sharing a picture that showed how her breast milk turned green after she contracted COVID-19!
Her viral photo showed two pouches of her breast milk. The white one on the left was apparently expressed before she contracted COVID-19, and the green one of the right after she tested positive for COVID-19.
She originally posted this on Instagram almost a year ago, on 1 February 2021:
However, her original post didn’t go viral until lactation consultant, Goldilacts, reposted it with this message:
Diet Likely Turns Breast Milk Green, Not COVID-19
Ashmiry did not share much beyond what was in her post, so we don’t really know the circumstances behind those two breast milk pouches.
Let me share with you why it is far more likely that her diet, not COVID-19, turned her breast milk green… and some other breast milk facts!
Fact #1 : No Evidence COVID-19 Infection Changes Breast Milk Colour
There is currently no evidence that breast milk changes colour with COVID-19 infection.
In fact, other mothers in Goldilacts’ Instagram thread pointed out that their breast milk did not change in colour, even when they were infected :
Other mothers also pointed out that their breast milk looked exactly like Ashimiry’s after they had green foods :
It is highly likely that Ashmiry’s breast milk turned green because of her diet, not because she was infected with COVID-19.
Fact #2 : Breast Milk Colour Changes Over Time
Breast milk changes in colour and composition over time during the first few weeks :
- Colostrum is the first breast milk a mother’s body makes. There is only a small amount, but it is thick and highly nutritious. It is often yellow or orange in colour from the high levels of beta-carotene.
- After a few days, the amount of breast milk increases, as the mother begins to make transitional milk. During this two week period, the colour of the breast milk changes from yellow to white.
- After the transitional milk period, the mother produces mature milk which itself changes in colour during each feed :
– Foremilk : The first milk that flows out is thinner and lower in fat, and appears clear or bluish white.
– Hindmilk : The fat content goes up as the milk flows, and eventually becomes a creamier milk called hindmilk which has a thicker white or yellowish cream colour.
Fact #3 : Breast Milk Colour Changes With Mother’s Diet
Breast milk is also known to change colour with the mother’s diet :
- Green : If the mother eat lots of green foods (vegetables like spinach, kale or seaweed), or foods that contain green dyes (Gatorade), or certain herbs or vitamin supplements.
- Pink / Orange / Red : If the mother eats foods that contain these colours naturally, or use food dyes. For example – beets, orange or red soda drinks, red Jell-O.
- Yellow / Orange : If the mother has a diet rich in beta-carotene, like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association also points out that mothers can get green breast milk after they eat green- or blue-coloured foods like green vegetables, kelp or some types of seaweed in tablet form, or concentrates of natural vitamins.
Fact #4 : Breast Milk Colour Changes With Mother’s Health
Breast milk can also change with the mother’s health :
- Pink / Brown / Rust-coloured : If some blood from the mother’s breast leaks into the milk.
- Pink / Red-tinged : If the mother has cracked nipples.
- Black : If the mother is taking the antibiotic Minocycline
Fact #5 : Breast Milk Colour Changes When Frozen
When you freeze breast milk, it can appear more yellowish.
Fact #6 : No Such Thing As Mother-Baby Body Scans
As much as I strongly support breastfeeding, I have to point out that there is no such thing as full body scans of mother and baby during lactation.
The mother’s breasts do not scan her baby for infections (like COVID-19), and create antibodies to put in breast milk.
If the mother is infected with COVID-19, any antibodies she produce goes into her breast milk. This occurs irrespective of whether the baby is infected as well, or not.
If the baby has COVID-19, the mother’s body cannot detect that, or produce antibodies to put into the breast milk.
Fact #7 : Consumed Antibodies Unlikely To Impart Protection
While a mother’s breast milk may contain antibodies against COVID-19, they impart little to no protection because the antibodies appear to be destroyed when digested by the infant.
If the antibodies cannot pass directly into the infant’s blood, they cannot confer any actual protection beyond temporarily protecting the oral cavity or GI tract during the feeding session.
A December 2021 LactMed summary of studies on the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on breast milk found that:
- Both vaccinated mothers, and mothers who survived COVID-19, produced breast milk with neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- Levels of antibodies in breast milk from vaccinated mothers were higher than those of mothers who survived COVID-19
- The antibodies in the milk samples had neutralising activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- However, none of the infants who were fed breast milk with these antibodies had any SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies in their blood.
In other words, the mother’s milk may have neutralising antibodies against COVID-19, but they don’t actually get absorbed by the infant, so breast milk with COVID-19 antibodies do not confer any protection to the infant.
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