The Internet Is Going Crazy Over This Breast Milk Photo

February 23rd 2016

Arkansas mother Mallory Smothers is gaining massive attention on social media for her viral Facebook photo showing the drastically different appearance of her breast milk over the course of several hours. Many are talking about the photo because Smothers explained how breast milk can actually take a different appearance and form if a mother or child is ill, and some had no idea that their breast milk consistency can indicate a change in health.

The image shows two side-by-side pictures of her breast milk: One from Thursday night that looks very white and one from Friday morning that has a yellow appearance.


A mother's breastmilk changes to meet a baby's needs beyond calories.

Smothers posted the images because her baby appeared to be ill on Friday morning, so when she saw the change in her breast milk color, it reminded her of a 2013 study in Clinical and Translational Immunology that found leukocyte levels in breast milk increase when a mother or child is ill and can shift the milk's appearance as such. Leukocytes are white blood cells that help fight infection. The study Smothers cited states that maternal leukocytes "are thought to confer active immunity and influence the development of immunocompetence in the infant, as well as protect the mammary gland from infection."

Once Smothers' body detected her baby might be unwell, her mammary gland receptors apparently responded by producing colostrum, a form of milk that is rich in antibodies and leukocytes and is released after a mother first gives birth.

"I didn't notice a difference until today, but look at how much more the milk I produced Friday resembles colostrum ([t]he super milk full of antibodies and leukocytes you make during the first few days after birth) and this comes after nursing the baby with a cold all night long," Smothers wrote.

Smothers' post currently has more than 70,000 shares, and many commenters wrote that they experienced the same phenomenon with their own children:

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Midwife Cheryl Sheriff told Essential Baby that it "makes sense" for a mother's breast milk to change in color and composition when her baby is under the weather, adding that this phenomenon also happens when the mother is sick to keep the baby healthy.

"This protects the baby from the maternal infection and allows feeding to continue," Sherriff said.

But a mother and her baby don't necessarily need to be sick for her milk to look different. Clare Byam-Cook, a trained nurse and midwife, pointed out to Metro U.K. that it's also possible for breast milk color to look different based on a mother's stress levels, among other things.

For more on how women confront breastfeeding stigmas, check out this ATTN: video.


RELATED: The Problem with the Way We Talk About Breastfeeding

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