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No You Can't See Antibodies In Your Breastmilk - Myth Busted

"My milk is really poor quality and doesn't have any antibodies anyway", said a mum during a phone call yesterday.  She went to continue but I had to interject - sorry, wait, what?

Turns out mum had seen some photos on Facebook. One showing white milk and the other showing a rich golden yellow - with the claim because baby was sick, the yellow colour was all the antibodies, just like colostrum....

Oh my days.

YOU CAN'T SEE ANTIBODIES with the naked eye!  Any more than you can see vitamin D or harmful bacteria, antibodies do not colour breastmilk.

Colostrum is not coloured by antibodies. The fact is colotrum can vary from mother to mother - it can be clear, pale and golden or bright orange like cordial!  What's more, colostrum can vary in colour hour to hour, day to day from the same mother. The colour variation and orange tinge is because of carotenoids in the fat, NOT antibodies.

Eat enough beta-carotene rich carrots, squash, sweet potatoes etc and you can turn your whole self orange too, in a condition called "carotenemia" (I kid you not).

Breastmilk is shown to be a dynamic fluid that changes moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day - to best meet the needs of that individual baby.  This means the time of day she expresses, how long ago it was since her baby fed/she last expressed, how full her breasts were at the time - all can make a massive difference to how milk looks when milk is removed.

We can best see this difference if a mum who has full breasts expresses until they feel softer and a "full feed" volume of milk has been removed (or more if mum has oversupply/engorgement):

As this post discusses - when mum is full, the first milk is higher in lactose (to fuel brain growth and provide a "drink").  As the breast drains, we see the fat content increase. If mum was to express milk right at the end of a feed, when her breasts felt much less full and softer, we'd see a picture more like the right. However unless mum was extremely full and then got a superb expression with a pump, she'd be unlikely to notice such a distinct difference as above - it's a gradual transition, not a flipping switch. If stood in the frige, it typically looks much more like this.

What's even more ridiculous about the whole "visible antibodies theory", is it seems people can't even decide what colour they are!

Vaccines DID NOT turn her breastmilk green, or blue, depending on your point of view (maybe it's like that dress where people saw different colours?). The claim is her body thought it was sick from the vaccines, sent this signal to mother who made coloured milk!
What's far more likely is mum ate some green foods, drank some Gatorade, took a Spirulina supplement or something else that tinged her breastmilk.

Mums are often worried their breastmilk doesn't look "right", or "nourishing" or that there isn't enough fat. This is purely because cow's milk proteins result in a yellowy/creamy hue (and typically the more cream the more golden/yellow). Yet human breastmilk as the norm has more of a white/bluey tinge unless the fat is separated out.  What's more, even expressing with hands on techniques, you're unlikely to remove as much milk (and thus fat) as a baby feeding well.  If you just put the pump on and go without breast compressions, you typically remove less still. 

Rest assured your milk is perfect for your baby.