Breast milk is produced by new mothers to feed infants. It is very healthy and full of nutrition and is the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to digest more diverse foods.
Why should I be aware of this?
Human breast milk is preferred for all infants, even premature and sick babies, with rare exceptions.
- Human breast milk is the food least likely to cause allergic reactions.
- It is inexpensive.
- It is readily available at any hour of the day or night.
- Babies accept the taste readily.
- The antibodies in breast milk can help a baby resist infections.
How does this affect me?
Benefits for baby
- Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients that closely match infant requirements for brain development, growth and a healthy immune system.
- In breast milk, the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are well balanced for the human baby, as are the sugars and fats.
- Human milk also contains immunologic agents and other compounds that act against viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Since an infant's immune system is not fully developed until age 2, human milk provides a distinct advantage over infant formula.
- The baby's intestinal tract is best aided in its digestion by the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals found in breast milk.
- Breastfed babies do eat more often than formula fed babies since breast milk is digested more quickly and leaves the stomach empty more frequently.
- Children who are breastfed enjoy lower rates of several chronic childhood diseases, including respiratory infections and ear infections as well as diarrhea.
- Breast-fed infants gain less weight and tend to be leaner at 1 year of age than formula-fed infants, resulting in fewer cases of childhood obesity.
- Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.
- Breast milk helps disarm salmonella and E coli.
Benefits for mother
- Breast feeding uses calories, making it easier for the mother to lose the pounds gained during pregnancy.
- It also helps the uterus get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding a woman may have after giving birth.
- Exclusive breastfeeding delays the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
- Breastfeeding plays an important role in the mother child bonding process.
Health Risks arising from not having breast milk
- Recent studies show that babies who are not exclusively breastfed for 6 months are more likely to develop a wide range of infectious diseases and have more hospitalizations.
- Also, infants who are not breastfed have a 21% higher post neonatal infant mortality rate, as observed in a study in the U.S.
- Babies who are not breastfed are sick more often and have more doctor's visits.
All about breast milk
- Breast milk has 4 % fat, vitamins A, C, E and K, lactose and essential minerals.
- Breast milk has enzymes, hormones, growth factors and substances that fight infection and help develop the immune system.
- Breast milk has antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses.
- It contains two types of proteins: whey and casein. Approximately 60% is whey, while 40% is casein. This balance of the proteins allows for quick and easy digestion.
- Breast milk is biologically active. It plays a role that goes far beyond nutrition, experts opine. For example, if you put an oxidant stressor — something like cigarette smoke — in breastmilk, it resists the stressor, and breast milk does this better than infant formula even though formula contains more antioxidants.
- Breast milk has a protein called secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), which has the ability to bind to foreign substances (including harmful bacteria) so they can be eliminated from the body. It lines the wall of the gut, which is one of the main entry points for infection. Colostrum, the thicker milk that a mother’s body produces in the first few days, is especially high in sIgA. Advances in hygiene and sanitation, plus ready access to treatment, have made life-threatening gastrointestinal infections rare in babies from developed countries. But they still cause considerable illness and many infant deaths in the developing world, where powdered formula is sometimes mixed with contaminated water.
- Breast milk can alter itself. It changes, both as the baby grows and during each feeding. Foremilk, which is produced at the start of each feeding, is relatively low in fat. As the baby sucks, the level of fat rises, satisfying him and lulling him into that blissful state. The fat levels of human milk also change in the baby’s second six months, when his growth rate slows. In recent years, new formulas called follow-up formulas, have been designed to more closely match some of the nutritional needs of an older baby.
Breast milk and the environment
Breastfeeding is better for our environment because there is less trash and plastic waste generated as compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.
- Certain foods will increase milk supply -- There is no scientific proof that particular foods increase milk supply.
- Beer increases milk supply -- Contrary to this beer consumption decreases supply indirectly because alcohol stays in the milk and the resultant milk tastes bitter. The baby may drink less of the breast milk, therefore decreasing milk supply.
- Taking a multi or prenatal vitamin will inhibit milk supply -- This is not true. Vitamins prescribed by medical practitioners help in getting the proper nutrients to support breast milk.
- You need more calcium in your diet when you are breastfeeding -- Breastfeeding mother needs same amount of calcium as other women, which is 1,000 mg per day.
- Most people should not eat peanuts, soy, milk, wheat, or other common allergens when breast feeding -- In fact, allergic reactions from human milk are extremely rare. If you have a strong family history of allergies, talk to your pediatrician about avoiding these foods while breast feeding.
What can I do?
The amount and types of vitamins in breast milk is directly related to the mother’s vitamin intake. Do take the vitamins prescribed by your doctor on time.
Toxicity in breast milk
Studies have found the presence of man-made chemicals referred to as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in breast milk. These spread through our water, air and soil; are taken in and stored by fish and animals; and eare eventually consumed by humans who are at the top of the food chain. Once there, they seek out and attach themselves to our fat, which is critical to the production of nursing mothers' breast milk. As mothers breastfeed their babies, these pollutants enter their babies' systems.
List of chemicals that have been found in breast milk include
- Dieldrin, Aldrin and Endrin
- Nitro Musks
- Dioxins and Furans
- Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Other Metals
Human milk bank
When a baby is intolerant to any kind of formula or she needs breast milk for survival and the mother is either unable to or does not have adequate supply of milk, then human milk banks that store breast milk from donors (other women's breast milk) can come to their aid. Though this milk does not come from the baby's mother, it provides the same precious nutrition and disease fighting properties as the mother's breast milk.
- Breastfed babies with eczema experienced milder symptoms if their mothers laughed hours before feeding them, according to a study by Hajime Kimata at the Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital in Osaka, Japan. 
- Most women produce 25-40 ounces of milk per day.
- Your baby can get up to 1,000 calories per day from your breast milk.
- Breast milk contains 330 mg of calcium per quart.
- Quality of breast milk is only affected in extreme conditions of malnutrition. Your body will take nutrients from you to make breast milk and you will become malnourished before your baby does!
- The flavors in the foods you eat will get passed on to the baby. Your child may be more likely to eat broccoli when introduced to him later if he was exposed to the flavors when you were breastfeeding.
- Toxic Breast Milk?
- Benefits of breastfeeding
- Healthy Milk, Healthy Baby; Chemical Pollution and Mother's Milk
- Myth and Fact of Increasing Breast Milk Supply
- Hot milk