Newborn

Witches' milk or when the newborn has milk in the breasts


When I am doing the newborn consultations, many times the parents arrive a little concerned because they have observed that the baby's breasts are like inflamed, with a hard mass inside them and they detect the exit by them of a whitish discharge similar to the milk. I explain that this is not about any disease, that they do not have to worry, since it is nothing bad or serious and that this discharge is given the colloquial name of witch's milk in newborns, whose scientific name is galactorrhea of ​​the newborn.

The witch's milk It is a term that is given to the milk that comes out of the newborn's nipples, which is due to a temporary elevation of the maternal hormones (estrogens) that cross the placenta and produce this effect in the fetus. After birth, it is manifested by the enlargement of your breasts and the exit through your nipples of this whitish discharge.

The frequency of this situation is actually low. It can happen in 5% of births and in two to three weeks (sometimes a little longer) it tends to disappear spontaneously, when the maternal hormones are eliminated from the baby's body. Regarding sex, it can occur in both females and males, since at birth the mammary glands develop equally in both sexes.

Finally, it must be said that witch's milk It is observed more in full-term newborns and, especially, in those who take longer to be born, that is, after 40 weeks.

Galactorrhea or witch's milk has nothing to do with breast milk, although it is due to hormonal causes, so its origin has nothing to do with human milk. Even babies fed with artificial formula can also present this situation of swollen breasts and milk leaking from the nipples.

Scientists have analyzed the composition of this milk that flows from the newborn's nipples and have come to the conclusion that it has large amounts of fat, with a wide range of short-chain fatty acids, which, compared to breast milk, are much higher in witch's milk.

Scientists also observed that witch's milk obtained from low-weight babies has a lower fat content than witch's milk from babies of adequate weight.

When a baby comes to my office with swollen breasts and milk coming out of his nipples, it happens that in most cases parents ask me if it is true that they should squeeze or empty all the milk content they have to prevent the breasts from continuing to grow.

There are also many other myths surrounding the belief of this fact, which are linked to demons and witches and date back to the Middle Ages. Apparently, this milk and the nipple are related to the witches' wart, a place where milk came out that was a source of food for evil beings (hence the name of witch's milk when milk comes out of the newborn's nipples ). When witches had no milk from their warts, they invited the demons to suck the milk from the nipples of newborns.

For this reason in ancient times and, unfortunately, in many cases also today, parents or grandmothers continue to believe in this myth and place rag or straw dolls in the cradle of babies in order to scare away the demons and thus prevent the breasts of babies from being sucked. Hence also that there are people who favor squeezing, draining or massaging them to eliminate the milk they contain and not feed demons or evil beings.

But for no reason should the breasts of babies be squeezed, drained, massaged, or milked to remove the milk content, or to prevent them from developing excessively in adult life. If you do this, a serious infectious process called mastitis can occur at the level of the breasts, due to manipulation of the mammary glands or increased milk production due to stimulation of the nipple.

This situation, as I informed you before, is not serious and will disappear spontaneously after about two or three weeks, without having to perform any procedure.

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