Let’s break breastmilk down and take a look at what makes it one of a kind.
Written by Stacie Hanna, CNM
Evergreen Women's Health
Breastmilk is one of the most incredible foods, providing not just the basic essential nutrients for your baby, but also offers many other components that fluctuate based on your baby’s age and needs. Let’s break breastmilk down and take a look at what makes it one of a kind.
· Live cells: Immune boosters, help organs develop and heal
· Proteins: Promote growth and development, immune support and brain protection
· Amino Acids: Increase at night to promote sleep
· Oligosaccharides: Promote gut health and prevent infections
· Enzymes: Promote digestion and immune support, improve iron absorption
· Growth Factors: Support healthy development of intestines, blood vessels, nervous system and hormones
· Hormones: Improve messages between tissues and organs, regulate appetite and sleep patterns, improve maternal and baby bonding
· Vitamins and Minerals: Support healthy growth and organ function, build teeth and bones
· Antibodies: Protection against illnesses and infections by neutralizing bacteria and viruses
· Long-chain Fatty Acids: Build nervous system, aid in healthy brain and eye development
· MicroRNAs: Regulate gene expression, prevent or halt disease development, immune system support, promote breast remodeling
Colostrum is the first milk your breasts produce, beginning as early as 16 weeks pregnant, lasting through the first 2-4 days of your newborn’s life. While the quantity you make is low, only 1-4 teaspoons a day, it is highly concentrated with protein, antibodies and white blood cells. The level of these components are so high, in fact, that it works to protect your baby from infections and diseases. It acts like a laxative to helps your baby pass the first stool, meconium. It also works to protect your baby’s digestive system by coating and sealing the lining of the gut, preventing further complications.
Your milk changes from colostrum to mature milk, known as transitional milk. During this time, you probably notice your breasts feel firmer and fuller as your milk is ‘coming in’. Your body is now making up to 28 fluid ounces or more a day. The color changes from yellow gold to a creamier color and texture as this milk is high in fat and sugar, supporting the rapid growth of your newborn.
Your breastmilk is fully mature around four weeks old and is rich in protein, sugar, vitamins and minerals as well as the components described above. This milk is able to supply all of your newborn’s nutritional needs. Mature milk is able to adapt in quantity and composition based on your newborn’s growth or immunological needs. For example, if you or your baby are ill, your body will make additional antibodies for your breastmilk in order to fight that illness.
**While this is a brief breakdown of what breastmilk is and its benefits, please contact Evergreen Women’s Health clinic if you would like to schedule a visit for further breastfeeding support.