Breast milk is the best food for newborns and infants since it provides all the necessary nutrients for their growth and development. However, there is a common myth that shaking breast milk can cause harm to a baby.
But is there any scientific evidence to support this claim that shaking breast milk can break down the proteins and cause inflammation in the baby’s gut lining? Is it okay to shake breast milk?
Understanding breast milk is essential to determine why shaking it can be controversial. Shaking is one way to mix the milk, but is it the best method?
This article will explore the controversy of shaking breast milk and provide scientific evidence to support the claims.
- Shaking breast milk is a controversial topic, with some people believing it can cause harm to the baby’s gut lining.
- Scientific evidence suggests that shaking breast milk does not break down the proteins or cause inflammation in the baby’s gut lining.
- Alternatives to shaking breast milk include gently swirling the milk or using a breast milk mixer to ensure that the fat layer is properly mixed.
Why Can’t You Shake Breast Milk?
Worried about shaking breast milk? Some folks reckon it messes with the nutrients and proteins. Others say just swirl it gently to mix it up. But here’s the real deal: gentle shaking doesn’t zap the good stuff in breast milk. Still, it’s a good idea to give it a swirl instead to avoid making bubbles that can give your baby gas.
3 Main reasons Breast Milk is Shaken
- Mixing the Fat Layer: Breast milk often separates into layers when stored, with a creamier fat layer rising to the top. Shaking the milk helps to recombine these layers, ensuring that the baby gets the full range of nutrients in each feeding.
- Warming the Milk: If breast milk has been stored in the refrigerator or freezer, it needs to be warmed before feeding. Shaking the milk can help distribute the heat evenly and prevent hot spots that could potentially burn the baby’s mouth.
- Dissolving Added Supplements: In some cases, doctors may recommend adding supplements to breast milk, such as vitamin D or iron drops. Shaking helps to ensure these supplements are evenly distributed throughout the milk.
Understanding Breast Milk
Breast milk is a unique and complex fluid that provides optimal nutrition for infants.
It is composed of various components that work together to support the growth and development of the baby, including:
- Living cells
One of the most important components of breast milk is the living cells, which include white blood cells, stem cells, and other immune cells. These cells help protect the baby against infections and diseases and support the development of the baby’s immune system.
Breast milk also contains proteins, which are essential for growth and development. However, these proteins are delicate and can be damaged by vigorous shaking. When breast milk is shaken, the proteins break down into parts, which can expose the baby’s gut to infections and inflammation.
To avoid damaging the proteins in breast milk, it is recommended to gently swirl the milk instead of shaking it. This will help mix the components without causing any damage to the delicate proteins.
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The 2 Controversial Points of Shaking Breast Milk
1. Potential Damage to Nutrients
The proteins in breast milk are delicate and can be denatured when shaken vigorously. This can lead to a loss of nutrients and make it harder for babies to digest the milk properly.
However, research suggests that gentle shaking by hand is unlikely to damage breast milk. It is only when the milk is shaken vigorously that the proteins are denatured and lose their nutritional value. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid shaking breast milk vigorously and instead use gentle swirling motions to mix it.
2. Creation of Air Bubbles
Air bubbles can cause gas and discomfort in babies, making it harder for them to digest the milk.
To avoid the creation of air bubbles, it is recommended to use a bottle with an anti-colic vent system that prevents air from entering the milk. Additionally, it is important to let the milk settle for a few minutes after mixing to allow any air bubbles to rise to the top.
Overall, the controversy surrounding shaking breast milk highlights the importance of handling breast milk with care. It is important to follow proper storage and handling guidelines to ensure that the milk retains its nutritional value and is safe for babies to consume.
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There is very little scientific evidence to support the theory that shaking breastmilk is ‘bad for it’. But here are a few pieces I have been able to find related to why you shouldn’t shake breast milk:
Research on Nutrient Damage
- Evidence that shaking does not harm the nutritional value of breast milk is not directly addressed in scientific literature. However, there are studies that indirectly suggest this. For example, a study titled “Human Milk Warming Temperatures Using a Simulation of Currently Available Storage and Warming Methods” used heat flow simulations to estimate the amount of damage due to overheating during warming using a regular water-based bottle warmer. The study did not find significant damage to the milk’s nutritional content due to the warming process, which involves more heat than shaking would
- In the article “Swirled or Shaken: Does Shaking Actually Damage Milk? The Scientific Evidence (Repost from 2014)” on Anthrolactology, the author, Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist, explores the common belief that shaking breast milk can damage its nutritional and immunological properties. Dr. Palmquist explains that this belief likely stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of milk proteins and the forces required to denature them. She cites scientific literature to argue that the forces exerted by shaking are insufficient to cause such damage. Dr. Palmquist concludes that while gentle swirling is sufficient to mix the fat back into the milk, shaking breast milk should not harm its quality or benefits for the baby.
While shaking breast milk may not damage the nutrients, it can introduce air bubbles into the milk, which can cause gas and discomfort for babies. However, this is not a significant concern as the air bubbles will eventually rise to the top of the bottle and can be easily removed by letting the milk settle for a few minutes before feeding.
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Alternatives to Shaking
Fortunately, there are alternatives to shaking that can help preserve the quality of the milk.
A gentle swirling motion is a great way to mix breast milk without creating bubbles. To use this technique, simply hold the bottle of breast milk and rotate it in a circular motion for a few seconds. This will help to mix the milk without agitating it too much.
If your breast milk has been refrigerated or frozen, it may need to be warmed up before use. However, it’s important to avoid heating breast milk directly in the microwave or on the stove, as this can destroy the nutrients in the milk. Instead, try one of these warming methods:
- Immerse the sealed container of breast milk in a bowl of warm water or hold it under warm running water for a few minutes.
- Use a bottle warmer to gently warm the milk to the desired temperature.
By using these alternatives to shaking, you can help ensure that your breast milk retains its nutritional value and quality.
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In summary, it is best to gently swirl a bottle of breast milk, rather than shake it, to mix the fat layer with the rest of the milk. Although there is virtually no scientific evidence to support this theory, to be on the safe side it is more advisable to swirl as it reduces the chances of bubbles being formed.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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