Why you should care
Because it’s the next best thing to a nutritional value label.
Even before she discovered she was pregnant with her first child, journalist Hadas Ben-Arzi was a vocal supporter of breastfeeding, joining panel discussions on Israeli TV. “A lot of times, people would argue that we don’t know what we pass on in our milk,” Ben Arzi explains. So when she came across a breast milk analysis service six months after giving birth to her son, she was excited to give it a try.
Like your morning yogurt, a nutritional value label can now be placed on breast milk. MyMilk is an easy, at-home test for new mothers that determines exactly what they’re passing on to their children and whether or not any changes are recommended in their diet. Available in Israel and a handful of other countries, this is the only at-home test that provides personalized breast milk analysis for a wide range of vitamins and micronutrients, says MyMilk co-founder Ravid Shechter-Ushpizin, Ph.D.
Analyzing breast milk is fundamental to understanding a mother’s diet and what she’s feeding her infant.
The Israeli company was created in 2014 by Shechter-Ushpizin and fellow neurobiologist Sharon Haramati, Ph.D. They became friends while studying together and happened to both take maternity leave at the same time — and both were struggling with breastfeeding. Each had her own issues, but they realized two key things: that many mothers don’t have the scientific tools to help with breastfeeding challenges and that analyzing breast milk is fundamental to understanding a mother’s diet and what she’s feeding her infant. So the pair embarked on what they call their “second doctorate” and developed the MyMilk program. Shechter-Ushpizin says they know consumers are “beginning to take health into their own control,” and they hope to “become a dominant player in mother-centered wellness and health care.”
Here’s how it works. The mother answers a questionnaire and purchases the test ($333 plus shipping) on the website. When she receives the kit, she expresses two 20-milliliter samples of milk over a 24-hour period and sends them to MyMilk’s lab in Israel. The breast milk is then analyzed for vitamins, including B-12, B-6, B-1, B-2 and vitamin A, as well as caffeine and micronutrients, fat percentage and energy content. In some countries, milk can also be tested for bacteria that may cause mastitis, an infection in breast tissue that causes breast pain, swelling and redness.
Results start coming in 24 hours after the milk arrives at the lab and can be viewed online via a private online account. Full results are available within 10 to 14 days, displayed in easy-to-read infographics and color scales, comparing the tested milk to the average levels of mothers to healthy term babies. Also included: personalized nutritional recommendations based on both the results and the questionnaire, and a 30-minute consultation with a dietitian via Skype, phone call or text message.
The diagnostic tests are beneficial not only for the child, but also the mother, says Haramati. Women in their reproductive ages are at risk “since they are utilizing their nutrient reserve to produce new babies and breastfeed these babies,” she adds. “Usually they don’t even know that.” MyMilk’s nutritional value tests are currently available in the United States and Europe, and there’s strong interest from mothers in Canada, South Africa, India and Australia as well, Shechter-Ushpizin says.
Having tested hundreds of samples, MyMilk is just getting started. The service is working on its “next generation” of tests, including a physically connected device that will provide on-the-spot analysis of a mother’s breast milk. MyMilk aims to continue to improve the telemedicine diagnosis system — or health care from a distance — so every new mother can conduct these tests and receive answers from the comfort of her home.