The Composition of Human Breast Milk

As a mother, have you ever wondered exactly why our breastmilk composition is perfect for our babies?

The nutritional value of breast milk...

It doesn’t look like much does it? In fact, sometimes it seems downright weak and watery. Breast milk, however, is teeming with an incredible array of nutrients, over 400 of them. They are all neatly packaged at the right temperature in conveniently portable containers. (Perhaps why they are fondly referred to as jugs!) Breast milk is the original fast food.

Colostrum – Nature’s Starter Pack for Babies

Colostrum is the pale yellow milk produced during the first couple of days following birth. It contains all sorts of beneficial goodies to jump-start a baby’s immune system, as well as the growth of muscle, bone, and tissue. It contains antibodies and growth factors as well as minerals, salt, nitrogen, white blood cells, and vitamin A.

Mature Milk

Colostrum is produced during the first three to four days before a mother's mature milk comes in. This mature milk is made up of water, fat, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, white cells, and protein.

Mature milk is made up of two different kinds of milk, the watery foremilk in the front of the milk-producing cells (alveoli) and the fattier hindmilk at the back of the alveoli.

Fascinating Facts about Breastmilk Composition

It would be impossible to list all the ingredients that make the composition of breast milk so unique.

Some extraordinary elements are worth noting. Two long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in breast milk, namely DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid), seem to be particularly important in the brain development of infants.

The iron in breastmilk composition is entirely different from the free iron found in formulas. Lactoferrin in breast milk provides iron in an easily absorbable form that is protected from exposure to intestinal flora. Unprotected iron feeds the bad bugs, which could compromise a baby’s underdeveloped immune system. 

Immune molecules are transferred from mother to baby via breast milk. Interestingly enough, this is a two-way street. If a baby picks up germs, she will transfer them to the mother while feeding. The mother will then produce antibodies to those germs and pass them back to the baby at the next feeding. It’s a wondrous, biofeedback mechanism that adapts to current circumstances.

Breastmilk composition also changes as a baby grows, the milk adapts to meet the baby's specific needs.

Want to compare the specific ingredients in breast milk and formula? Click Here

The composition of breastmilk by Gizelle Bichard

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