Petri Dish Experiment Shows the Amazing Powers of Breast Milk

Breastfeeding can deplete you body of fluid. (Photo: marki1983/Flickr)

Breastfeeding has been shown to be a health boon for both babies and moms, improving everything from an infant's immune system to a mother's heart heath. But studies are one thing; photos of experiments posted for the world to see on Facebook are another. Seeing is believing, after all.

This viral image, which shows droplets of breast milk placed inside bacteria-infested petri dishes, has mesmerized the internet about the potential benefits of breastfeeding:

breastmilk petri dishes
The effects of breast milk on bacteria-infested petri dishes. Vicky Greene/Facebook

The image was posted by Vicky Greene, a first year biosciences student at South Devon College in Paignton, England, as part of a microbiology research project. It shows a collection of petri dishes that contain the bacteria M. luteus. The bacteria grows abundantly everywhere in the dishes except where there are white splotches in the middle. Those white splotches are, of course, droplets of breast milk, each from different breastfeeding stages.

What makes the image so astonishing is how it clearly demonstrates the antibacterial powers of breast milk. According to Greene: "It also worked with E. coli and had a fairly good go at MRSA too ... the future is bright, the future is breast milk."

Greene intends to extend her experiment to also study the effects of colostrum, the murky-yellow immune-boosting milk that breasts produce immediately following birth. It'll be interesting to compare those results with what is shown in this image.

Although the experiment is simple enough — nothing groundbreaking or unknown is necessarily being demonstrated here — it does prompt further wonder about just how remarkable breast milk is. For instance, other studies have shown that a substance in breast milk known as HAMLET can kill up to 40 different types of cancer cells. This substance is not just miraculous for babies, but researchers are currently working to isolate it so that it can be used to treat cancers in adults, too. Other studies have also shown that breast milk has strong antiviral properties, including the ability to kill HIV.

Breastfed infants have been shown to be less susceptible to allergies, possessing lower rates of asthma. And breast milk even appears to have "intelligent" immune properties, killing unwelcome bacteria (like the M. Luteus shown in Greene's image) but nourishing the good gut bacteria that are important to our health. In other words, breast milk feeds our babies and their friendly bacteria, which in turn also boosts their immune systems in more complicated ways.

So hurray for breast milk, and hurray to Greene for posting her experiment for the world to see. It's high time this miracle substance, which is designed by nature to nourish us all, gets some of the public acknowledgement it deserves.