Is Breast Milk Gold Under a Microscope?

An intriguing image of breast milk under high magnification shows it to be glittery gold in appearance.

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A photograph of breast milk under a microscope appears glittery gold.

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In May 2015, an image of a glittery golden substance identified as “breast milk under a microscope” began to circulate on Facebook pages dedicated to lactation and breastfeeding support. The image was presented without a source or context, and many users wondered whether the image was a real and accurate depiction of the appearance of breast milk under high magnification:

The image was certainly impressive, and it was easily traceable to a March 2015 blog post by The Scientific Mom, in which she explained that:

I took advantage of the opportunity of being a nursing mom, to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time … put my breast milk under the microscope! What I found was a veritable gold mine of water, fat, white blood cells, bacteria, protein chains, amino acids, enzymes, and more. Of course, in the above picture, you can’t see many of these things as they are far too small! What we can see are water droplets, fat, and a smattering of white blood cells. Still, this was amazing! This nutrient packed goodness was something I made, and it was incredible.

When I saw this picture, I immediately shared it with my group of close mommy friends. From there, it made its rounds on Facebook with everyone from individual moms to huge breastfeeding support groups sharing this photo!

The Scientific Mom provided an interesting foil for her breast milk microscope snap — a contrasting image of popular infant formula Similac captured under similar conditions. Here is how the two slides (presented by the original photographer) appeared, side-by-side:

And there was the key to the attractive, glittery gold-like appearance of the “liquid gold” breast milk seen here: Just as with the Similac, most of what we’re seeing in terms of hue is the unfiltered light used to illuminate the specimen for microscope viewing, not any inherent color quality of breast milk (or baby formula) itself.

Other images across the web labeled as showing human breast milk (at differing levels of magnification) vary in hue and clarity: