A U.K. mom of three is going viral after she shared a photo from her breast milk science experiment.
Vicky Greene is a first year biosciences student at South Devon College, and for a microbiology research project, she decided to examine the properties of breast milk based on the nursing child’s age. On Monday, she posted a photo of petri dishes from her experiment, with a brief summary of her findings so far.
“I decided to test whether antimicrobial properties of breastmilk changes the older the child is feeding for a small microbiology project as part of my bioscience degree,” Greene told The Huffington Post, adding that her classmate, Emma Browne, is assisting her with the experiment.
In the caption for her photo, the mom explained that one breast milk sample is from a mother feeding her 15-month-old while the second comes from a mother nursing her 3-year-old. She also plans to examine colostrum.
Greene’s early findings suggested that breast milk’s antimicrobial properties persist beyond the first year. “So proud ... here you have 9 Petri dishes containing the bacteria M. Luteus,” she wrote. “The white spots in the middle are discs soaked in two samples of breastmilk. See the clear bit around the discs ― that’s where the proteins in the milk have inhibited the bacteria!”
She concluded, “I’m so excited!!! It also worked with E. coli and had a fairly good go at MRSA too ... the future is bright, the future is breastmilk.”
The post received over 25,000 likes.
Greene told HuffPost she was pleased to see so far that breast milk’s antimicrobial properties don’t seem to diminish as the child ages. Still, she stressed that this is just preliminary data, and there will be more detailed results later on.
“Now, obviously, this is just one photo which went viral, and much more study is required to get definitive results,” she said. “But I have had doctors and nurses tell me that feeding past a year is completely pointless from a healthcare perspective. What I hope to raise awareness for is that extended breastfeeding isn’t useless.”
For Greene, this research has a personal component, as she is a single mom with three children, ages 13, 10 and 3. She breastfed her first child for five months, her second for 11 months and is still nursing her 3-year-old.
“I have been on the wrong end of judgment about my breastfeeding choices, and I’m fed up of it!” the mom said, adding that she trained to be a breastfeeding peer counselor in 2012 and will soon become a student midwife as well.
“There is a massive stigma surrounding breastfeeding an older child, and there shouldn’t be,” Greene continued, adding that she wants to inspire people to consider breastfeeding a little bit longer. “The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to and beyond the age of 2 years, so we need to support women with this,” she noted.
The mom said she isn’t looking to fuel a breast versus formula debate. “It is not my aim to guilt women into breastfeeding,” she said. Instead, Greene wants to empower women to make informed choices and add to the wealth of information and research around breast milk.
“I hope this photograph, and later a full study, contributes to the cause, and gives women the confidence they deserve to make decisions about whether they want to breastfeed for six days, six months, or six years!”