Mom Reveals the Incredible Way Her Breastfed Baby Saved Her Life

mother holds baby's head while breastfeeding

Like most moms, I'm well versed in the benefits of breastfeeding. I know breast milk helps transfer antibodies to protect babies from getting sick, and I've seen the stats that show breastfed babies have fewer allergies and cases of ear infections. Breastfeeding works wonders for many moms and babies, including this UK mom who says nursing actually saved her life after her 6-month-old detected changes in her breast milk caused by cancer.


Sarah Boyle's son, Teddy, was just 6 months old when he started unexpectedly pushing her away every time she tried to feed him from her right breast. Boyle tells BBC she tried several breastfeeding positions, thinking her son might be uncomfortable or have a problem with his neck. But, no matter what she did, her little boy continued acting distressed and refusing to nurse from that particular breast for weeks.

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In 2013, Boyle had a cyst in her breast that was diagnosed as benign, but she decided to have it reexamined after noticing her son's reaction. It's a good thing she did, because doctors ended up doing a biopsy and making a startling discovery: Boyle was diagnosed with stage two triple negative breast cancer at just 26 years old.

Boyle is now undergoing chemoterapy and plans to have a double mastectomy. Doctors aren't sure exactly why Teddy stopped nursing from her affected breast, but the mom says she thinks it's because cancer changed the taste of her breast milk.

"For an 8-month-[old] baby to push his mother away was really heartbreaking," she told BBC. "Nobody can say for certain whether it was Teddy, but I know that if it wasn't for him, then this time next year it could've been completely different if I'd listened to doctors. Instead, I listened to Teddy. [It's] Because of him that I'm now being treated."

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Obviously, there's no definitive way to say Boyle's baby "detected" her cancer, but it's a testament to the unique bond between babies and moms that he was able to sense that something was up. Surprisingly, Boyle isn't the first mom whose baby stopped nursing around the time she was diagnosed with cancer.

In 2015, Texas mom Shakti Dalal was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after her newborn stopped nursing on one side. Dalal felt a lump, but assumed it was just a clogged duct. She told WFMY News 2 that doctors thought the tumor gave her breast milk a bitter taste that was unpalatable for her baby.

These changes in breast milk have not been accepted as a cancer sign by the medical community, BBC reports. Still, it's important for women to get any noticeable breast change checked out -- and that can include an infant's sudden reluctance to breastfeed from a particular breast.

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Around 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes, and most doctors agree that early detection is the best tool we have for fighting the disease. Hopefully stories like Boyle's lead to more research into the effects of cancer on breastfeeding moms. If breast milk could be used as a legitimate detection method, we might be able to save even more lives.

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