Thanks to modern technology, you can get tested for pretty much anything. There are at-home tests for gut health, genetic traits and even sleep and stress levels. (Knowledge is power, after all.) So when I learned about Lactation Lab, a company that will analyze your breast milk, I was intrigued. Because for all the talk of how natural it is, breast milk is kind of murky. What’s actually in there, anyway? I was about to start introducing solids to my 6-month-old and was reading up on the gradual process of weaning, which got me thinking about what the hell I had been feeding him this whole time.
Family physician Stephanie Canale, M.D., had a similar question when she went back to work a few weeks after having her second daughter. While some women struggle to pump milk, she had no problem making enough. “I was one of those moms who could produce two six-ounce bottles in about ten minutes,” Dr. Canale tells us. But despite drinking a ton of milk, her daughter wasn’t gaining weight. Desperate for answers, she wondered if her milk was lacking in some nutrients. No resources were available at the time to test her breast milk, but she later discovered that she had iron-deficiency anemia and hereditarily low B12 levels. Could things have been different had she known earlier? She created Lactation Lab so other moms didn’t have to wonder.
The test kit (starting at $99) measures basic nutritional content in a new mom’s breast milk, including calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins. The goal? To optimize breast milk with a few dietary tweaks so that a nursing mom is encouraged to breastfeed for as long as possible, Dr. Canale says.
Here’s how it went down: My kit arrived with easy-to-follow instructions, and over the course of two days, I dutifully filled up the test tubes until I had the required two one-ounce samples of milk. (Note: The instructions ask you to fill the tubes over a period of 24 hours, which might be a piece of cake for some moms, but not for this one. #everydropcounts) I placed my sample in the freezer overnight and then shipped it to the lab in the provided bag. A few weeks later, my results came back, along with nutritional recommendations to improve the quality of my milk.