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A friend just posted that their 2-year-old has a cold, and they want to prevent their two-week old from getting said cold. They plan to inject breast milk up the two-year-old's nose in an attempt to prevent spreading the cold to their infant. Is there evidence for or against the efficacy of this practice?

Examples:

... there are a few ways you can naturally help your baby, from home. ...

Squirt breastmilk up your baby’s nose. Its much better than any other sprays, has no nasties (only goodies!) and works well.

Blocked Nose And Colds In Babies – Treatments For A Blocked Nose

If the baby, or anyone for that matter, has some nasal congestion due to a cold or allergy, breastmilk can help to clear up the problem.

Did You Know Breastmilk Can Cure These Ailments?

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    Is this really notable? My Googling led me to this article, but it looks like cheap content mill output. – Ken Y-N Feb 10 '14 at 4:35
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The underdeveloped nature of a baby's throat, with the epiglottis being much higher up in the throat means that squirting anything up an infant's nose - any excess beyond that which coats the nasal passages are likely to be inhaled to the baby's lungs. See: Choanal atresia.

This is of course dangerous, and should not be attempted without the supervision of trained (orthodox) medical professionals.

As to the efficacy, if the baby caught the cold from the mother, by the time the baby is showing symptoms, the mother's milk may well contain appropriate antibodies. The question you would then need to ask is will these antibodies affect viral propagation in the nose/throat/ducts to eyes and ears and the variety of sinus cavities which the virus can affect. I know of no research which shows that this is possible or even desirable. See: Alternative medicine for colds.

Systemic treatment by introducing the antibodies into the digestive tract (the "yummy-mummy" way) is the natural way which has evolved to protect the baby. One might imagine that direct treatment of the nasal-mucosa - if it were to have any strong survival bias in evolutionary terms, babie's noses would be adapted to clamp onto the nipple and provide a sucking reflex - no such adaptation exists. This is another reason to question it's validity.

If the elder sibling is producing milk, then it may contain the specific antibodies necessary to buffer the baby/infant's immune system. If the mother doesn't catch the cold, this would indicate (probably) that those antibodies are already present and yummy mummy would help protect the younger sibling. Timing is important, if the youngster catches the cold before the mother shows symptoms, it's too late for yummy mummy as a first line of defence. See: Cold Prevention.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • The baby doesn't have the cold. An older sibling has the cold, and they're trying to prevent the baby from getting it by giving the sibling breast milk up the nose. I've clarified the question. – Stephen Collings Feb 10 '14 at 18:00
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    Welcome to Skeptics Stack Exchange! Please provide some references to support your claims. – Sklivvz Feb 10 '14 at 18:23
  • There was a flag to remove the additional reference banner. The references provided here do not seem to support the claims. e.g. the existence of "Choanal atresia" (broken link, so I am using Wikipedia doesn't demonstrate or refute that (a) the epiglottis is high, (b) squirting into the nose will go into the lungs, or (c) that one implies the other. Every paragraph suffers in the same way. – Oddthinking Mar 19 at 4:22
  • @Oddthinking I should have checked before I flagged. The post needs revision, I'll see what I can do. – We are Monica. Mar 19 at 9:43

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