This Viral Experiment Shows Breast Milk Really Does Have Superpowers

breast milk science experiment
Vicky Greene/Facebook

You've probably heard breast milk described as "liquid gold" or the "perfect human food," and that's largely because of the unique nutritional and antibacterial properties that make it so damn magical. Most of us have heard that breast milk can boost babies' immune systems, but it's not every day you get to see those germ-killing skills in action. That's why we can't stop staring at this "breast milk science experiment" posted on Facebook by a first-year microbiology student.


Vicky Greene, who's studying biosciences at South Devon College in England, recently shared a compelling photo that shows exactly how breast milk works to fight bacteria and keep babies healthy.

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The image features petri dishes that each contain a sample of the bacteria M. luteus, which the Centers for Disease Control notes is not usually considered dangerous, but can cause infections in people who have weakened immune systems -- you know, like babies.

In the samples labeled "BmA," Greene inserted breast milk from a mom who's nursing a 15-month-old. The ones labeled "BmB" contain breast milk from a mom who's nursing a 3-year-old. In both, you can clearly see how the breast milk is working to get rid of the bacteria. As Greene explains in her post:

The white spots in the middle are discs soaked in two samples of breastmilk. See the clear bit around the discs -- that's where the proteins in the milk have inhibited the bacteria! I'm so excited!!!

So, the proteins in the breast milk are actually killing off the surrounding bacteria. Even more exciting, Greene writes that her previous experiments showed breast milk had the same effect on E. coli bacteria and methicillin–resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is responsible for a number of antibiotic-resistant Staph infections.

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Since Greene's photo went up, it's been shared more than 23,000 times, and many people are eager to see her experiment replicated on milk from mothers nursing babies under a year old, as well as frozen versus fresh breast milk, and even colostrum, which she says she plans to test next. Mostly, though, people are just excited to have such a cool visual to prove that the "benefits of breastfeeding" we so often read about actually exist.

Breast milk has already been proven to contain a perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat for babies. It's linked to a decreased likelihood of allergies, asthma, and ear infections. Studies also show that breastfed babies are less likely to catch viruses, and that antibodies can be passed from mother to baby via breast milk. It seems like every month we hear about some new breast milk superpower, but it's a whole different ball game when you can actually see those superpowers in action.

Even for moms like me who didn't breastfeed exclusively, this experiment is proof of how incredible our bodies are and of how much we still have to learn about the benefits of breast milk at every stage of life. If breast milk can kill bacteria in a petri dish, can certain proteins be isolated and used to fight infections in other ways? In her post, Greene seemed to allude to these possibilities by writing, "The future is bright, and the future is breastmilk."

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Obviously, there's still a lot of research to be done in order to understand exactly how Greene's experiment worked and if her results can be replicated. But, her experiment has sparked the curiosity of thousands of people, and there's no doubt it will lead to even more meaningful research and discussion. Plus, for moms, it's always amazing and validating to look at something our bodies can do and realize that yes, we really are that incredible.

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