Can adults drink breast milk?

This brief guide will address the query “Can adults drink breast milk?” We’ll also discuss why it’s not ideal for adults to consume breast milk, what breastmilk is made of, and what suitable replacements there are for adults instead of breastmilk. 

Can adults drink breast milk

Adults can drink breast milk in the sense that if handled, stored, and procured from a reliable source, it will not be detrimental to their health. 

However, it should be clearly stated that breast milk has a particular mixture of certain proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids (fats) that are far better suited to infant nutrition than to the needs of grown adults.

Consuming breast milk is reputed to have effects such as strengthening immune response and helping build muscle, but as of yet, there is no objective evidence to suggest this is the case. 

Why is it not ideal for adults to consume breast milk

Breast milk is not ideal for adults to consume, because it has lower concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and protein than dairy milk does. 

Pound for pound, adults would be required to consume a greater volume of breastmilk just to ingest the recommended daily intake of calcium and proteins, than dairy milk. 

Aside from a widespread shortage of baby formula, which we’ve all been reading about over the past few weeks, breast milk is a secretion that is biologically designed to help newborn infants gather their digestive bearings, and provide them with basic nutrition during the earliest stages after their birth. 

Breast milk is often (and mistakenly) advertised to be a “superfood” as it is natural and has no additives, but that does not mean drinking it is without risks of its own. 

The components of breast milk are also important to take into account. Milk, both dairy and non-dairy, is produced, packaged, and made available following a series of regulations that guarantee it is innocuous. 

Some women who lactate may transmit blood-borne diseases through their milk, such as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), HLTV- 1 (Human lymphotropic virus 1),  and CMV (Cytomegalovirus) have been known to be transmitted through breast milk to infants. 

Women who donate breastmilk should often test for any transmissible diseases, no matter how low they presume the risk of carrying any pathogen to be.

Additionally, dairy milk can be certified based on the diets of the cows that are milked (pasture milk, stabled, etc) and non-dairy can be certified to come from sustainable produce. In the case of breastmilk, it may be a little more difficult to assure its provenance and quality. 

What is breast milk made of? 

Breast milk is mostly made up of water (87%) and contains protein (1%), fat (4%), and carbohydrates (7%). Within these carbohydrates, 1-2.4% are oligosaccharides (small chain sugars). 

Also, breast milk contains vitamins and minerals in concentrations most adequate for newborns, but most importantly, it contains antibodies, which are special proteins that help protect against infectious diseases, and immune cells that stimulate the development of a newborn.  

Additionally, the exact contents of breast milk may vary from batch to batch, as the lactating mothers who supply it may have different physiological states and different nutrition. 

Substances such as alcohol, alkaloids, and even contaminants like pesticides can be found in breast milk, which means that ultimately, the composition of milk may be different, even if it comes from the same source.

What suitable replacements are there for adults, instead of breast milk

Adults, depending on dietary preferences and whether or not they’re lactose intolerant, may consume a wide variety of dairy or non-dairy products to satisfy their nutritional needs. 

Vegans may consume non-dairy milk such as those harvested from almonds and coconuts, as it is rich in whole carbohydrates and fiber. 

On the other hand, adults who are looking to increase their daily protein intake are better off consuming dairy milk, as breast milk does not have a higher protein content than cow milk. 

Also, adults who are lactose intolerant may consume lactose-free milk, while those looking to limit their daily intake of fat may consume 2% milk or skim.  

Breast milk is better suited to nourishing newborns, as it has higher levels of cholesterol (which play an important part in developing brain matter) and its particular set of microorganisms makes it ideal for colonizing a newborn infant’s digestive system. 

Summarizing, there are other options better fit for nourishing adults, and if in doubt, it’s best to consult a nutritionist. 

Conclusion

This brief guide addressed the query “Can adults drink breast milk?” We’ve also discussed why it’s not ideal for adults to consume breast milk, what breastmilk is made of, and what suitable replacements there are for adults instead of breastmilk. 

References: 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/18/baby-formula-shortage-why-is-there-none-what-to-do-causes-explained

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2018.00295/full#:~:text=duration%20(12).-,Human%20Milk%20Composition,etc%E2%80%A6)%20and%20many%20vitamins.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15325535/#:~:text=Three%20viruses%20(CMV%2C%20HIV%2C,the%20case%20of%20maternal%20infection.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/adult-craze-for-human-breast-milk-poses-risks/

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/breast-milk-supplements-adults

https://globalnews.ca/news/4987608/tia-tamera-mowry-breast-milk-adult-drinking/#:~:text=On%20the%20 contrary%2C%20registered%20 dietitian,would%20highly%20caution%20against%20it.  

https://www.medicinenet.com/is_it_good_for_adults_to_drink_breast_milk/article.htm

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-dairy-bad-or-good

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.