As a parent you become attuned to every movement and bodily function your baby experiences.  Ask any parent the last time your baby pooped and they will tell you the exact time, color, consistency, and emotion related to that experience.  We will save that topic for another time.  Today we talk about baby backwash.  That is right, backwash, as in baby spit that gets sucked back into a mother’s breast while she nurses.  The human body is AMAZING and I am going to give you a quick dose of the science behind the mechanism and its benefits.

Breastmilk is packed with antibodies and nutrients specific to baby’s needs at that time.  The number of antibodies, proteins, enzymes, fats, and carbohydrates profiled in the milk are due to a remarkable process where baby spit may enter the breast and create a body response to produce milk catered to the baby’s needs.  In essence, the baby is placing an order for the mom to cook up for a later meal.  In 2004 an ultrasound study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, demonstrated the backward flow of milk from the nipple towards the back of the breast by tracking the milk-fat droplets.  They hypothesized this may also be occurring during the nursing process. As the baby’s saliva goes back into the breast the breast creates a specialized milk profile to protect baby.

In a follow-up study in 2013, The University of Western Australia published in the journal of Clinical and Translational Immunologyrevealing a rapid increase in leukocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections) found in the breastmilk when mom or baby are sick.

Colostrum, is the early milk that is produced by mom to feed baby in the first few days and it is packed with leukocytes.  Leukocytes begin to decrease over the next two weeks after baby is born if mom and baby are healthy.  Research found when mom or baby gets sick there is a rapid increase with leukocytes again. Baby backwash, mouth to nipple contact, is one way this communication between mom and baby occurs.  “During a milk ejection, duct pressure increases,” the authors explain, “milk ducts dilate and milk flows toward the nipple/baby’s mouth. As the hormone oxytocin wears off, duct pressure decreases, milk ducts reduce in size and milk flows backwards – most likely together with saliva from the baby’s mouth.”

Genius!  What an incredible design that keeps our little ones’ healthy and thriving.  There are many other ways we can keep our little ones healthy if nursing didn’t work for you.

If you are currently struggling or have struggled with breastfeeding, I may be able to help.  We can schedule a consult and evaluation to see if chiropractic may help.  I check your infant for musculoskeletal issues that may make latching difficult or painful for mom.  In addition, I have many local resources I am happy to share with you that may make your breastfeeding experience more successful and less frustrating.

~~ Melanie Dockter, DC CACCP