The composition of breast milk. What is breast milk made of?
Breast milk is the very first food of the child, therefore, of course,
it contains the necessary nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, as well as water to maintain water balance in the body. All this is so. But mother’s milk is not just a food product, and it performs not only nutritional functions.
What is breast milk made of?
Each serving of breast milk contains many other ingredients, many of which are unique.
Millions of living cells. These include white blood cells, which are responsible for strengthening the immune system, and stem cells, which contribute to the growth and restoration of organs.
More than 1000 proteins that help the baby’s body grow and develop, strengthen its immune system, form and protect brain neurons.
All proteins in breast milk are amino acids. There are more than 20 species in their milk, and their number also includes nucleotides, the content of which increases at night. Scientists suggest that they can have sleeping pills.
More than 200 complex sugars – oligosaccharides6, which serve as prebiotics necessary to maintain healthy microflora in the intestines of the child. In addition, they prevent infections from entering the bloodstream and reduce the risk of brain inflammation.
Over 40 enzymes. Enzymes serve as catalysts for chemical reactions in the body. Breast milk enzymes stimulate digestion and immunity, and also help the baby’s body absorb iron.
Growth factors that contribute to the normal development of the body. They affect the state of many organs and systems, including internal organs, blood vessels, the nervous system, and the glands responsible for hormone production.
By the way, there are many hormones in breast milk! These smart chemicals are responsible for the exchange of information between tissues and organs, ensuring their normal functioning. Some hormones control the appetite, others sleep, and some are even responsible for strengthening the connection between mother and baby.
Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that contribute to the normal growth and functioning of organs, as well as the formation of teeth and bones.
Antibodies, or immunoglobulins. There are five main types of antibodies, and all of them are found in breast milk. 8 Antibodies neutralize bacteria and viruses, protecting the baby’s body from infections and diseases.
You may have heard of long chain fatty acids that play a key role in the formation of the baby’s nervous system and the development of the brain and eyes. So, they are also in breast milk!
1400 types of miRNAs. It is believed that they control gene expression, prevent and stop the development of diseases, support the baby’s immune system, and also affect the change in the structure of the mother’s breast.
This long list includes only a fraction of the ingredients in breast milk – and scientists, meanwhile, are discovering more and more new substances in its composition. Interestingly, the content of these ingredients varies depending on the age and needs of the child.
Let’s start from the very beginning …
In the early days: colostrum
The first milk that is formed immediately after the birth of the baby is called colostrum. This thick, sticky liquid is often called “liquid gold,” and not just for its yellow or orange color. Colostrum has an important function of nourishing and protecting the fragile body of a newborn baby.
At first, very little milk is produced – only 40-50 ml per day. But the newborn’s stomach is very tiny, so that’s enough. In addition, colostrum is very well digested. A small volume is more than compensated by its high-quality composition.
Colostrum contains the same substances as breast milk in the following weeks, but in a different ratio – in accordance with the needs of the newborn.
Colostrum, for example, is sometimes called a natural vaccine for high levels of antibodies and white blood cells. After the baby leaves the safe maternal womb, the first milk helps protect it from infections and diseases.
In addition, the protective properties of colostrum play an important role in strengthening the baby’s digestive system. Colostrum protects and strengthens the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract, which in newborns has high permeability. This is especially important if the baby was born prematurely, since in this case the risk of developing necrotic enterocolitis increases.
In addition, colostrum is rich in minerals and vitamins, and the content of vitamins A, E and K in it is higher than in mature breast milk. The protein content is also increased. And colostrum has a laxative effect, helping to eliminate meconium.
In the next few weeks: transitional milk
During the first week of a baby’s life, approximately two to four days after giving birth, breast milk production increases. The breast becomes larger and firmer – milk begins to “come”. On the third day, the baby consumes 300-400 ml of breast milk per day, and by the fifth day – already 500-800 ml. No wonder breasts seem bigger!