What Exactly Is in My Breastmilk?

What’s in breastmilk?

 

You’ve probably heard that breastmilk supplies all the nutrients your infants needs. But have you ever wondered exactly what’s in your milk? While we know the components or “ingredients” in breastmilk, the composition will be different for each mom.

 

Breast milk is a living substance that is ever-changing to meet the needs of your growing child. And your milk is tailor-made specifically for YOUR baby – day by day, month by month, and feeding by feeding. Your body changes the composition of milk to meet your little one’s specific needs. No two breastmilk samples are exactly alike.

 

Breastmilk components:

Fats

 

Breastmilk contains many fats which help your baby’s body and brain grow. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA. The level of these fats is automatically adjusted to your infant’s specific needs.

 

“Fat is the most important nutrient in breastmilk; the absence of cholesterol and DHA, vital nutrients for growing brains and bodies, may predispose a child to adult heart and central nervous system diseases.” Dr. Sears (https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/why-breast-is-best/comparison-human-milk-and-formula)

 

Protein

 

Breastmilk is rich in many proteins, including cholesterol and DHA, intestinal and digestive help (lactoferrin), antimicrobials, brain building blocks, and sleep-inducing proteins.

 

It is very rare for an infant to be allergic or sensitive to human milk proteins.

 

Carbohydrates

 

Breastmilk contains lactose (milk sugar) and oligosaccharides, which help with digestion and intestinal health.

 

Lactose is important for brain health and growth. Human milk has higher lactose volumes than other milk from mammals.

 

Immune boosters

 

Breastmilk is full of living white blood cells which boost your baby’s immune system. Just one teaspoon of breastmilk contains approximately three million germ-killing cells.

 

As you are exposed to germs and as you interact with, feed, and kiss your baby, your body is able to take “messages” back that translate to specific antibodies in your milk, which then provide protection for your baby. This is why you do not have to stop breastfeeding when you are sick – your milk is actually protecting your baby!

 

 

mom holds baby on her lap, on a bed with the text "just one teaspoon of breastmilk contains around 3 million germ killing cells."

Vitamins and minerals

 

 

Readily-absorbed vitamins and minerals are found in breastmilk.

 

Zinc, iron and calcium are the highest absorbed.

Enzymes and hormones

 

Thyroid enzymes, prolactin (the hormone that tells you to make milk), oxytocin and many more are found in breastmilk.

 

The hormones and enzymes found in breastmilk will highly vary from mother to mother, depending on the age of baby, the mother’s diet, and many other factors. Studies show that when a breastfeeding mother eats a variety of foods, her baby may be more willing to try more foods when the time comes to introduce solids, due to the various flavor changes in breastmilk.

 

Colostrum

 

Commonly referred to as a “liquid gold,” this is the first milk you make for your baby. It is higher in proteins and immune factors than mature milk, which gives it that gold, yellow, or orange hue. This milk is very rich, and your baby will remove small amounts frequently in the first few days of life.

 

White mother holds a white baby, in the foreground an image with a gold drop of colustrum reads "builds immune system, acts as a laxative, protects from harmful bacteria, prevents jaundice, removes waste.

 

 

As much as we know about breastmilk, we are still learning about it every single day. Many of the components of breastmilk are still considered “undiscovered” and studies are being done to find out more.

What’s most important for moms to remember is that your milk is made for your baby and every single drop counts!

 

 

 

References:

https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/why-breast-is-best/comparison-human-milk-and-formula

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/392766

 

 

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