- From the time Joanne Carr had her son Dougie, the U.K.-based mum breastfed him with no issue, so she was surprised when, at 14 months old, Dougie refused to feed from her right breast, Yahoo UK reported.
- Carr decided to investigate further and did a breast self-exam, where she found a lump that ended up being cancerous.
- “The research is not 100% clear, but we believe that the taste of the milk changes [when there is cancer present],” international board certified lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor told INSIDER.
- Carr is now in remission for breast cancer after undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
From the time Joanne Carr had her son Dougie, the UK-based mum breastfed him with no issue. So she was surprised when, at 14 months old, Dougie refused to feed from her right breast,Yahoo UK reported.
“He fed on the other one fine. I thought I might have a blocked duct or something. It was very strange,” Carr, 37, told Yahoo UK.
She said that if it weren’t for Dougie, she would have never realised she even had a lump.
Cancerous tumours could change the taste of breast milk
It wasn’t just a coincidence that baby Dougie stopped feeding from Carr’s right breast.
“The research is not 100% clear, but we believe that the taste of the milk changes” when there’s a tumour present, international board certified lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor told INSIDER. More specifically, it’s possible, though not certain, the cancer cells can make milk’s typical salty-sweet flavour more bitter and unpleasant, “Good Housekeeping” previously reported.
O’Connor added that the same type of reaction can occur if a woman has mastitis, or inflammation and infection of the breasts that usually occurs within the first three months of breastfeeding.
According to La Leche League International, a breastfeeding advocacy organisation, not all babies will stop breastfeeding from a breast that has a cancerous tumour, but some will because the cancerous breast tissue can affect the taste or lessen amount of breast milk available.
Carr told Yahoo UK that she believes Dougie felt the lump because it was near her nipple where he fed from, but doctors didn’t confirm that’s why Dougie refused to feed.
“As terrible as breast cancer is, I find it amazing that the babies react this way; perhaps [it’s] Mother Nature’s way of protecting the future,” O’Connor said.
This isn’t the first time a baby stopped breastfeeding ahead of a breast cancer diagnosis
Dougie isn’t the only baby to help his mother learn of her breast cancer. In fact, O’Connor said she’s worked with multiple women who reported the same phenomenon.
In 2015, Shakti Dalal told Yahoo News that her now 3-year-old daughter’s refusal to feed from one of her breasts at just 2 months old lead her to find she had stage 3 breast cancer.
“She was really fussy. And she was only 2 months old, so it was pretty precocious of her to communicate to me that there was something wrong,” Dalal told the outlet.
In 2017, a woman named Sarah Boyle told Metro UK that her baby Teddy would scream every time she tried to feed him from her right breast.
“Teddy is my hero – if it hadn’t been for him I would never have suspected I had cancer,” Boyle told Metro UK. “My [breastfeeding] consultant told me that breastfeeding helps a mother and baby bond. In my case it did more than that – it saved my life.”
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