Breast feeding leads to overall better health of the baby (and exclusive breast-feeding for at least first 6 months is recommended by WHO), but did you know about the breast milk being a medium of communication between the baby and the mother? Or how it contributes to your child’s I.Q? Or how it can radically transform medicines in the years to come? Here’s all you need to know about breast milk :
- Mothers dissolve their own own body fat(starting with gluteal-femoral) to produce milk for the baby.
- A premature baby in neonatal care unit or a baby with lack of resources (clean water, immunity towards infectious diseases) will relatively benefit more from breast milk than a normal baby with proper resources.
- Breast-fed babies are more likely to have lower chances of obesity and higher I.Q than those who are fed artificial milk , also known as ‘formula’.
- Breast feeding can fulfil all the Vitamin and nutrients required by the baby in the first 6 months. Furthermore, it contains germ and disease fighting substances that helps the baby against illnesses.
- A baby doesn’t even need to drink water when being breast-fed as it provides all the necessary hydration
- Breast milk is the perfect food nutritionally with the perfect combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and nutrients.
- The golden coloured liquid that comes first out of a mother’s breast after giving birth ( or sometimes weeks before) called “colostrum” is low in fat, high in carbohydrates and proteins which makes it easily digestible to the newborn babies. It also has laxative effect that helps baby with its first poop called meconium (black tar-like substance).
- 3-5% fat and a rich number of vitamins and minerals is present like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and E are present in ‘mature milk’ which generally comes few days after child birth generally. Long chain fatty acids like DHA (an omega-3) and AA (an omega-6)—both critical to brain and nervous-system development are also present.
- Abundant amount of calories and energy is provided by lactose (the principle carbohydrate in milk) to support a child’s rapid growth.
- Some 150 oligosaccharides which are complex chains of sugars unique to human milk exist to feed the microbes that inhabit baby’s digestive system (these can’t be digested by the infant).
- Breast milk contains lots of good microbes required for a healthy digestive system.
- While mother’s milk has consistent colour and appearance, it can vary on terms of aromas, flavors, and textures.
“Researchers at the University of Manitoba obtained samples of breast milk from lactating women in the 1970s. It was then evaluated by a trained panel for taste, quality of sweetness, and texture. There were variation in all of the samples but the most notable one’s from the women who recently had spicy food which the tasters termed as “hot” and “peppery”.
- Babies, through breast milk , are able to taste what their mother had. According to her new research, Julie Mennella of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia believes that these early breast-milk experiences help infants develop their own personal taste preferences, as well as increase their enjoyment of particular flavors.
But most importantly,
“The nutritional and immunological components of breast milk change every day, according to the specific, individual needs of a baby.” Breast milk is dynamic in nature and changes everyday according to the needs of the babies and provides antibodies to help the baby fight against diseases as well as recover quickly from them.
But how does this happen?
According to Katie Hinde, a biologist and associate professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the School of Human Evolution & Social Change at Arizona State University-
“When a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This “baby spit backwash,” as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby’s immune status. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection.” (Source- link to article)
Breast milk as the future of medicine?
According to recent researches, breast milk contains Pluripotent stem cells, stem cells that have the ability to form any of the more than 200 different types of cells found in adult human bodies. This can prove useful in curing degenerative diseases in future.
Breast milk tells the baby about its mother, her lifestyle. Our culture is embedded in the food we eat it and breast milk (being influenced by the food we eat) often introduces the baby to its related culture. Despite that, right now, we lack the societal, institutional, and cultural support structure to help mothers meet their breast-feeding goals and hence more awareness regarding the issue is required.
Summarised up to 72% by Brevity from – The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am