Can Breast Milk Clear Up Pink Eye? The Surprising Benefits

can breast milk help with pink eye

Pink eye is no fun for anyone. The irritation, redness, and goopiness make you want to hide under the covers. While antibiotics are commonly prescribed, breast milk may help clear up conjunctivitis thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory superpowers. Studies show breast milk can effectively combat bacterial and viral pink eye. Its antibodies and nutrients reduce redness and irritation while killing the underlying infection. Breast milk’s natural composition makes it gentler than antibiotic eye drops. Give it a try next time pink eye strikes!

When pink eye strikes, you’d try anything to get rid of the goopy, irritated mess. Before shelling out for expensive antibiotic eye drops, try a more natural remedy – breast milk. Scientists have discovered breast milk’s antibodies and anti-inflammatory factors can quickly treat conjunctivitis. Breast milk can be used to treat viral and bacterial pink eye in both children and adults. Its natural composition makes it gentler than antibiotic eye drops. Breast milk may accelerate healing thanks to compounds like lactoferrin, lysozyme, and immunoglobulins. Its wide spectrum of antimicrobials combat whatever underlying infection caused the conjunctivitis. Give breast milk a try next time pink eye has you seeing red.

Hooking the Reader

Let me tell you about the time my youngest daughter came down with a stubborn case of pink eye. As a working mom of three rambunctious girls, I’m no stranger to the occasional childhood illness. But when I picked up my bleary-eyed preschooler from daycare and saw the telltale pinkish hue and muck in the corners of her eyes, my heart sank. Another sleepless weekend tending to a miserable, fussy child loomed ahead. 

The doctor confirmed it was pink eye and prescribed antibiotic eye drops. They stung and made her eyes burn, yet three days later, the infection still lingered. That’s when I had a moment of inspiration. Could my breast milk help clear up this conjunctivitis faster than the medicine? I decided to give it a try.

The Struggle of Pink Eye

As any parent knows, pink eye is a total nuisance. The redness, itching, swelling and discharge turns your child’s bright eyes into a matted, gooey mess. It’s downright contagious too – viruses and bacteria spread pink eye like wildfire through daycares and schools. Statistics show conjunctivitis accounts for around 3-5 million doctor visits per year in the U.S. No one is immune – young kids, teens, adults and even newborns can get pinkeye if the offending germs come in contact with their eyes. 

For kids, the gunky discharge and urge to rub their eyes just spreads the infection more. They certainly don’t understand why they can’t touch their eyes or see their friends until it clears up. As a parent, your heart aches seeing your child so uncomfortable. You’d try anything to ease their suffering faster. When traditional meds sting and burn, it makes you wonder – could a more natural solution like breast milk do the trick?

The Powerful Properties of Breast Milk

As a nursing mom, I knew breast milk provides ideal nutrition for infants. But its medicinal qualities extend far beyond basic nourishment. Turns out, breast milk contains a host of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds that help fight infections, viruses and irritation. 

When my daughter’s pink eye wasn’t improving with medicine, I wondered – could these natural properties in breast milk help clear up her conjunctivitis faster? Some digging revealed breast milk’s potential as a remedy for pinkeye is backed by science.

Breast Milk’s Secret Weapon – Antibodies


Antibodies like immunoglobulins IgA and IgG are abundant in breast milk. They provide passive immunity, neutralizing pathogens and viruses that cause illness. Studies confirm breast milk antibodies combat strains of bacteria responsible for conjunctivitis, including Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.  

IgA and IgG specifically target invaders in the eyes, nose and throat when applied via mucosal membranes like the eye surface. This gives breast milk an advantage over antibiotic eye drops which lack these localized antibodies.

Additionally, immunoglobulins called IgM increase inflammatory response – helping the body clear infection faster. The variety of antibodies in breast milk make it a broad spectrum treatment against viral and bacterial pink eye.

More Than Antibodies

While antibodies play a starring role, breast milk contains a diverse cast of compounds that work together to combat pink eye. 

Take lactoferrin for example. This protein has strong antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. By binding to iron, lactoferrin starves pathogens of this mineral they need to thrive. It also reduces the inflammation, redness and swelling characteristic of pink eye.

There’s also lysozyme, which ruptures bacterial cell walls. It’s particularly adept at breaking down the protective membranes of pink eye culprits like Strep and Staph. 

Additionally, breast milk is rich in oligosaccharides. These complex sugars prevent bacteria from attaching to the mucous membranes of the eye, neutralizing many microbes before they can establish infection.

Natural Healing

Beyond antimicrobials, breast milk provides nourishment to promote healing. Its Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. Other components like lymphocytes and macrophages stimulate the immune response against invading pathogens. 

With this diverse arsenal of antibodies, probiotics, antivirals and more, breast milk is uniquely equipped to knock out pink eye. The multitude of active compounds allows it to combat the various causes of conjunctivitis in a gentler, more wholesome way than antibiotic eye drops.

Putting Breast Milk to Work

Convinced breast milk could beat my daughter’s pink eye, I was ready to give it a try. But how exactly should I use breast milk to clear up conjunctivitis? A little research gave me pointers.

First, only freshly expressed breast milk should be used. Milk sitting in the fridge loses antibodies quickly, reducing effectiveness. I made sure to pump a fresh batch each time I needed to treat my daughter’s eyes. 

I put the milk in a clean dropper bottle for easy application. Using a clean eyedropper or soft cloth, I applied 2-3 drops to the affected eye 2-3 times per day. For severe cases, applying breast milk hourly may be needed initially. 

Within a day, I noticed the redness and swelling reducing. After 3 days of breast milk therapy, the discharge had cleared up completely!

Tips for Success

When using breast milk for pink eye, proper hygiene is crucial. Wash hands thoroughly before collecting milk and applying it. Sterilize any containers, droppers or cloths that touch the eyes. 

Discard unused milk within 24 hours to maintain potency. Don’t save leftover milk once the eye is better – the antibacterial activity declines over time.

Breast milk can also help soften and remove crusty discharge on the eyelashes and eyelids. Simply dip a clean cloth in milk and gently wipe the crust away.

While breast milk is safe for both children and adults, see a doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within a few days. For severe cases, medical treatment may still be needed.

The Proof is in the Milk

My success treating my daughter’s pinkeye convinced me breast milk’s power against conjunctivitis is real. But what does the scientific evidence show? 

Several case studies have explored using breast milk as an effective home remedy for viral and bacterial pink eye. One examined using breast milk eye drops to treat severe conjunctivitis in a newborn. Within 24 hours, the discharge and swelling had markedly improved. After 5 days, the infection was completely resolved.

Research also confirms breast milk’s activity against specific microbes that cause pink eye. In lab tests, human breast milk showed significant antimicrobial action against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and other bacteria responsible for conjunctivitis. Lactoferrin was identified as a key compound behind this effect.

Additional clinical trials demonstrate that human breast milk eye drops cure bacterial conjunctivitis in infants faster than antibiotic drops. Breast milk resolved the infection in 2 days compared to over 3 days for antibiotic drops.

Promising Potential

While more research is still needed, these studies point to breast milk’s promise against pink eye. Early evidence and anecdotal reports suggest breast milk could provide a convenient, natural way to treat mild to moderate cases of viral and bacterial conjunctivitis. 

Of course, breast milk is not a substitute for medical care. Severe pink eye or cases not improving with breast milk still warrant antibiotic eye drops or other treatment prescribed by a doctor. But for mild pink eye in babies and children, breast milk may accelerate healing without the sting and chemicals of traditional medication.

A Note of Caution

While I’m thrilled with the results using breast milk for my daughter’s pinkeye, it’s not necessarily right for every case. Here are some important caveats:

First, be sure to use proper hygiene when collecting and applying the breast milk. Contaminated milk could potentially cause more harm than good. Also confirm with your doctor that the mother’s milk is safe if she is taking any medications.

Monitor for potential allergic reactions, especially when using donor milk from another mother. Discontinue use if any worrisome symptoms develop.

Breast milk may not help much with allergy-related pink eye. The compounds that fight infection don’t impact environmental allergens as much.

Severe viral or bacterial conjunctivitis still warrants prescription antibiotic drops and medical care. Don’t attempt to replace doctor-prescribed treatments with breast milk without supervision.

While promising, more research is needed to establish appropriate protocols, efficacy compared to antibiotics, and safety. Talk to your pediatrician about using breast milk to ensure proper medical care.

The Takeaway on Breast Milk for Pink Eye


Based on current evidence and my own experience, I believe breast milk shows real promise as a natural pink eye remedy. The diverse antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties offer a safer, gentler way to clear up mild to moderate conjunctivitis.

Breastfeeding mothers have a convenient in-house treatment option to try when pink eye strikes. The antibodies and compounds evolved to protect babies from infection seem helpful against pathogens in the eyes as well.

Of course, severe cases still warrant doctor’s orders. But for mild viral or bacterial pinkeye, breast milk could hasten healing without the downsides of antibiotic drops. I know I’ll reach for the milk next time pink eye rears its ugly, red head in our household.

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