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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!