Composition of Human Breast Milk
Human breast milk is the perfect food for human babies. The composition of human milk changes according to the needs of the child and the age of the child, as well as producing the amount needed on a supply and demand basis.
Human milk is also like a three course meal with an appetiser, a main meal and dessert.
When the baby first starts sucking, for the first 5 minutes or so, it will receive mostly what has been stored in the ducts. This can be about 5mils per breast of milk with a thinner consistency which is excellent for appeasing thirst. As your baby continues to feed from the same breast, the milk gets thicker and more full of nutrients, until by the time the baby has been feeding for 10-15 minutes the milk is like a dessert with carbohydrates, fats, proteins and all the nutrients to ensure that your baby grows and thrives. Your brain responds to the needs of your baby, producing the milk whenever it is needed and eventually producing it automatically at the times your baby would usually be hungry.
The more your areolas are stimulated by the skin to skin contact with the baby’s mouth, the more milk is produced.
The milk that comes last is called “hind milk” and is very important for the baby’s growth. If the baby doesn’t get enough hind milk it may not feel satisfied and may feel like feeding sooner.
When your baby is first born, what it receives from your breast is called colostrum.
Colostrum is a substance similar to milk but with much higher amounts of fats and sugars. It also contains very important immune boosting elements so that your baby can adjust more easily to life outside the pristine environment of the womb. It is a protective and extremely nourishing substance which makes your baby immune to everything you are immune to. This immunity carries through for as long as you are breastfeeding exclusively and the baby is not eating solids or taking top up bottles of formula milk.
After about 3 days the colostrum will slowly change from a thick orange colour to a light yellow and then a cream colour as your body starts to produce milk. When your milk comes in your breasts will feel swollen and firm and you will get a tingling feeling under your arms and at the sides of the breasts. This is called the “let down” reflex which tells you that your milk is being pushed from the back to the front of the breast.
Nutrition in Human Breast Milk
Human milk contains 3-5%fat, it is rich in brain building Omega 3’s particularly DHA and AA. It Automatically adjusts to the needs of the human baby’s brain as it is developing. Rich in healthy cholesterol, and contains a fat digesting enzyme, lipase. These substances are almost completely absorbed in the baby’s digestive system.
Human milk 0.8-0.9% protein, composed of whey proteins which are soft and easily absorbed by the body. Mothers who deliver preterm have higher levels of protein in their milk to compensate. Human milk contain s lactoferrin which contributes to intestinal health, and Lysozome which is an anti-microbial and keeps pathological bacteria under control. Human milk is rich in growth factor proteins and brain and body building protein components. It also contains sleep inducing proteins which raise in level during the evening and night helping the baby to sleep better.
Human milk contains 6.9-7.2%lactose and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccaharides promote intestinal health. Lactose and oligosaccharides are carbohydrates which provide the energy for growth and are considered extremely important for brain development.
Human milk is rich in living white blood cells and immunoglobulins which protect the baby from illnesses and also contains protective antibodies that the mother has acquired through exposure to viruses and bacteria.
Vitamins and minerals in human breast milk are bioavailable, meaning that they are readily absorbed by the baby’s body . Human milk contains some of every vitamin and mineral that is needed for growth in the correct proportions to provide what the baby needs at each stage of development.
Human milk contains digestive enzymes amylase and lipase, and is rich in many hormones that biochemically balance the baby’s body and make the baby feel good.
Human breast milk takes on the flavour of the foods that the mother eats, thereby introducing baby to the foods that the family eats.