Did you know breast milk is different, for each baby feed???
Breast milk is a ‘dynamic living tissue’ and not just a ‘natural liquid diet’ for babies. For each baby feed its customized naturally, to suit baby’s instant nourishment needs – whether it’s the breast milk quantity, texture, constituents or flavor – they change every day, with every feed, over time, till the baby is nursed.
No wonder it’s called God’s nectar for babies. As soon as the baby is born, for first 2-4 days, a special yellow-colored milk called ‘colostrum’ is made. Called the ‘first milk’, its highly rich in proteins; vitamins A, E, and K, minerals like zinc, copper, iron, calcium, magnesium; and other immune boosting nutrients and antibodies. The quantity of this thick ‘mother nectar’ is usually less, but it’s enough for early requirements for babies.
From fourth day onwards, the amount of breast milk starts to increase in quantity gradually. It becomes less thick and more whitish. This milk feeds the baby for the time when colostrum begins to decrease, thus it’s aptly called the ‘transitional milk’. It gradually gets replaced with ‘mature breast milk’ – and all this happens within a fortnight.
As a living fluid, breast milk comes with many capabilities, white blood cells, antimicrobials, cell wall protectors and proteins, it has everything to guard against bacteria and viruses. The live bacteria in the breast milk influences babies gut health, where it colonizes healthy bacteria that provides life-long resilience against conditions such as diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
If the mother has an infection, specialized white blood cells appear in breast milk to protect the baby. Conversely, if the baby becomes sick, the transfer of germs from baby to breast triggers the production of specific antibodies. These antibodies get deposited into milk, to boost baby’s immunity to fight the illness and strengthen the yet immature immune system.
For all this protection for the baby, large amount of breast milk is not even needed – according to a report by Iowa Extension Service, ‘every teaspoon of breast milk has 3,000,000 germ-killing cells in it; so if a baby gets even one teaspoon a day, it is still precious’.
Studies have shown that breast milk of mothers with premature babies contains more calories, greater fat concentration, more protein, sodium and secretory IgA (sIgA), to help with complete body development.
Also day and night breast milk have different components. Studies by researchers in Spain have found that night milk contains higher levels of neucleotides (proteins) that stimulate GABA, a sleep inducing neurotransmitter and melatonin.
Evening breast milk is rich in tryptophan, a sleep inducing amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin as well as amino acids that promote serotonin synthesis. Serotonin is a vital hormone for brain function and development, that makes the brain work better, maintain good mood and helps with sleep cycles.
Breastfeeding naturally also helps produce the ‘soothing hormones’- oxytocin and prolactin, that reduce stress and bring calmness not only in the mother but also in the baby, making babies cry less as they breastfeed.
Research has identified a carbohydrate naturally present in breast milk, called the human milk oligosaccharide (HMO). Thousand different types of HMOs present in breast milk, help with baby’s
growth, boost immunity and soften stools to prevent constipation, reduce respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections.
Stem cells are passed from mother to baby through breast milk and these help boost immunity too. Stem cells from breast milk can be directed to become other body cell types such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells.
University of Western Australia has demonstrated through studies that the antibacterial agents in breast milk not only kill bacteria, but it can also kill 40 different types of cancer cells. A protein in breast milk called ‘Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells’ (known as HAMLET) was tested on patients with bladder cancer. After each treatment, patients’ urine tests revealed dead cancer cells had been excreted, yet HAMLET had not affected healthy cells.
As mothers hold, kiss, and touch babies while feeding, they sample pathogens present on baby’s skin, triggering their body to make antibodies, similarly baby’s own saliva during a feed also changes the milk. Breast milk interacts with infant saliva to produce a potent combination of metabolites that regulate oral– and gut–microbiota. This milk-saliva mixing is a very unique biochemical synergism to boost innate immunity.
Breastfeeding also helps produce soothing hormones, oxytocin and prolactin, that reduce stress and bring calmness not only in the mother but also in the baby, making babies cry less as they breastfeed.
Post a feed, breast milk does not ‘lose its goodness’. Some immune factors actually become more concentrated during the second year of life, right when the baby begins to play and mingle with others. So whether the child is a newborn, or a few months old or 2 years old, benefits galore with each feed.
So much is possible by just breastfeeding babies and there is nothing like the mothers breast milk, which comes as a divine blessing for babies