Often, medical professionals advise mothers to breastfeed their babies. Though a few challenges may occur along the way when trying this feeding method, they don’t diminish just how potent and influential breast milk is. Here, we shine a light on what makes human breast milk so fascinating and bring more awareness to the breastfeeding community.
Breast Milk Is Alive
The breast is a living, active fluid full of antibodies, germ-fighting properties, healthy bacteria, white blood cells, and hormones. Each component that brings this milk to life helps a nursing baby receive vital nutrients to help fight viruses and bacterial infections and support developmental gut health. The long-term benefits are not readily visible while in the depths of the nursing journey, but they do exist.
If a nursing mother falls ill, she will produce white blood cells to transfer onto her baby to build immune protection. In contrast, when the baby falls ill, their saliva will trigger the mother’s breast to produce milk with the necessary antibodies to help the baby recover quicker.
Did you know that millions of germ-fighting cells exist inside one teaspoon of breast milk? This long-term immunological support is one of the most important reasons to nurse a newborn.
The Composition Can Change
A gallon of store-bought milk will carry the same composition regardless of the day or time. Breast milk will change its composition throughout a nursing session, meaning it will look different from beginning to end. While all of it is edible, it’s worth noting the changes.
The very beginning of a nursing session will include a mother’s letdown. This period is when the ducts open up in response to the baby at the breast, and the foremilk will release. Consider foremilk the thirst quencher, there isn’t much fat content, and it appears watery in a bottle. Further into a nursing session, this foremilk will transition to hindmilk. The hindmilk is where the highest fat content lives and changes per the baby’s energy needs.
Reaching the hindmilk is necessary for a full, satisfied baby. And depending on how long the session lasts, this can take 20 or more minutes to reach. The best way to understand the compositional changes of breast milk is to think of running a faucet on the hot setting. The water is ice cold at first, but over time, the water heats up to the desired temperature.
The Flavor Can Change
A mother’s diet can directly influence the flavor or composition of her milk supply. What the mother eats, her baby will drink, to some degree. While the nutrients and vitamins will break down and transfer to the milk supply based on demands and production signals, breast milk’s overall flavor or acidity can change, which is a fascinating feature of human breast milk.
Nursing a newborn is a commitment like no other. Understanding the distinct characteristics of breast milk can make all the difference for those on the fence about this feeding method.