Witch’s Milk: A Comprehensive Overview
Witch’s milk, also known as neonatal galactorrhea, is a condition where a milky discharge comes from a newborn’s nipples. This phenomenon is considered a normal physiological occurrence and is not typically a cause for concern . It is believed to be caused by the withdrawal of certain hormones that were passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. The milk-like substance is usually thin and white or yellowish in color. It’s important to note that witch’s milk is harmless and does not require any treatment. It typically resolves on its own within a few weeks after birth.
The term “witch’s milk” originates from ancient folklore. It was believed that the milk was a source of nourishment for witches’ familiar spirits and was thought to be stolen from unwatched, sleeping infants. In some cultures, the tradition of removing the milk (“milking”) has been reported. However, this practice can prolong milk production and potentially lead to other problems.
Causes and Occurrence
Witch’s milk is thought to be caused by a combination of the effects of maternal hormones before birth, prolactin, and growth hormone passed through breastfeeding, and the postnatal pituitary and thyroid hormone. It occurs in about 5% of newborns and can persist for up to two months. It is more likely to be secreted by infants born at full term, and not by prematurely born infants. The consistency of neonatal milk is estimated to be quite similar to maternal milk.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The primary symptom of witch’s milk is the presence of a milky discharge from the newborn’s nipples. In some cases, the baby’s breast tissue may also appear enlarged. The condition is usually diagnosed based on these physical signs and the newborn’s age.
Treatment and Management
Witch’s milk is generally not a cause for concern and typically does not require treatment. Parents are advised not to stimulate or express the milk, as this can lead to increased discharge production and potentially cause irritation or infection of the breast tissue in the newborn. If signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or tenderness around the baby’s nipples are observed, or if the discharge persists, it is recommended to consult a healthcare provider.
While complications are rare, in some cases, neonatal mastitis may develop. However, it is unclear if this is related to neonatal galactorrhea. Bloody discharge from the nipples is nearly always benign and frequently due to stimulation and irritation. However, if bloody discharge is observed, it is advisable to seek medical advice.
Witch’s milk is a temporary and generally harmless condition that affects some newborns. It is caused by the influence of maternal hormones and typically resolves on its own within a few weeks to months. Parents are advised to avoid stimulating or expressing the milk and to seek medical advice if signs of infection are observed or if the discharge persists.