Myth or Fact: Putting Breast Milk in a Newborn's Eyes Treats Conjunctivitis 


To all the wonderful mums who want to give their ray of sunshine the best care, you'll come across a wealth of advice, some tried-and-true and others passed down through generations.



One such age-old belief involves using breast milk to treat conjunctivitis in newborns. Today, we'll delve into the validity of this practice, making sure you have accurate information to nurture your little one's eyes.



What is conjunctivitis?


Conjunctivitis, often called "pink eye," is an inflammation of the thin, clear tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. It can cause redness, swelling, and sometimes a discharge from the eyes.



Causes of conjunctivitis in newborns


There are two types of conjunctivitis: 


  • Infectious conjunctivitis
  • Allergic conjunctivitis


The symptoms are similar, making it challenging to differentiate between the two.



Infectious conjunctivitis


A virus or bacteria can trigger infectious conjunctivitis and is highly contagious. Your baby can contract it through contact with discharge from an infected person's eyes, nose, or throat, as well as from contaminated fingers, surfaces, or towels. 



Contaminated water can also be a source. Symptoms typically emerge 1 to 3 days after exposure. If it's bacterial, they may last a few days; if viral, they could persist for 2 to 3 weeks.



Allergic conjunctivitis


This stems from an allergic reaction and is not contagious. If your baby's conjunctivitis is due to allergies, they may also display hay fever symptoms. 



If the allergic reaction is triggered by dust, mold, animal hair, or certain foods, it can be a year-round issue. If it's related to pollen allergies, it may come and go depending on the season and weather conditions.



Symptoms of conjunctivitis


They include:


  • Redness in the eye or on the inner eyelid
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discomfort in bright lights
  • Itchiness and a sensation of foreign particles in the eye
  • Presence of a yellow or green, sticky discharge, which forms a crust during sleep


In cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, it may initially manifest in one eye, but usually, both eyes become affected. The affected eye typically exhibits yellow discharge, crusting, and a gritty sensation.Viral conjunctivitis can impact one or both eyes, leading to redness, itchiness, and watery eyes.



For children with allergic conjunctivitis, additional allergy symptoms may be present, such as an itchy or runny nose and sneezing. Their eyes will likely be itchy and watery, prompting them to rub them.



Why do newborns have conjunctivitis?


Newborns can develop conjunctivitis due to various factors. It could be a bacterial infection acquired during birth or a reaction to environmental irritants.



Can I express breast milk in my newborn’s eyes to treat conjunctivitis?


Using breast milk for conjunctivitis is an age-old belief passed down through generations. While breast milk is precious and provides numerous benefits to your baby, there isn't enough scientific evidence to confirm its effectiveness in treating conjunctivitis. It's always best to consult a healthcare professional for proper treatment.



Medically recommended ways to treat conjunctivitis in newborns


  1. For bacterial conjunctivitis, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
  2. Viral conjunctivitis usually clears up but may require antiviral eye drops in severe cases.


How to prevent conjunctivitis in newborns

  1. Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your baby's face or eyes.
  2. Keep your baby's bedding, towels, and washcloths clean.
  3. Avoid sharing towels or washcloths with your baby.


Regarding your baby's health, it's important to rely on evidence-based practices. While breast milk is a remarkable source of nourishment, consulting a healthcare professional for conjunctivitis treatment is crucial for your baby's well-being.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


  • How long does it take conjunctivitis to heal?
  • The healing time for conjunctivitis depends on the cause. Bacterial conjunctivitis may improve within a few days with proper treatment, while viral conjunctivitis may take up to two weeks.


  • Is it normal for my two-month-old baby to have eye discharge?
  • Mild eye discharge can be normal in babies due to blocked tear ducts. However, if the discharge is excessive, thick, or accompanied by redness, consult your healthcare provider for evaluation.
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