Breast Milk Breakdown

Breast Milk Breakdown

A few decades ago it was thought that breast milk couldn’t possibly be nearly as nutritious as infant formula. But as research progressed on the topic, the medical community has acknowledged just how misunderstood breast milk was, and how it actually provides perfect and adaptive nutrition for your baby as she grows from her first day and beyond.

The Three Stages of Milk Production

Throughout the first couple of months of your baby’s life, your breast milk will continually change to keep up with the needs and feeding demands of your new bub:

1. Colostrum

After a new mum gives birth, her breasts will produce a thick and yellow-tinged milk called “colostrum”. Many new mums are immediately concerned since this sticky substance doesn’t exactly resemble milk and is only available in small amounts, but these tiny portions are exactly what you baby needs.

Unlike mature milk, colostrum contains higher amounts of antibodies and its nutritional composition is specifically designed to help your baby grow. It’s designed to help boost the development of your baby’s gastrointestinal tract, and the anti-infective agents contained within it are as protective as an immunisation.

Another benefit: it has a laxative effect! This is particularly important as it helps your baby pass the tacky meconium (your baby’s first bowel movement) in her system and it clears out any bilirubin from your baby’s gut, a substance known to cause neonatal jaundice.

2. Transitional Milk

After the first few days of colostrum, a mum’s milk will continue to transition over the next two weeks. The appearance and composition of the milk will change:

  • Proteins and immunoglobulin content decreases

  • Fat and sugar content increases

  • This is when mums also often feel a bit uncomfortable as her breasts become “engorged”. Your breasts may feel full, hard, or even painful. Frequently feeding your baby will help alleviate any discomfort, as will cold compresses (chilled cabbage leaves work fantastically!). 

3. Mature Milk 

Thinner and more water-like in consistency, mature milk will continue to change in composition and consistency throughout the day, and even throughout a feed! Your milk will go through two stages:

  • Stage 1:   Milk is “thin” in appearance and is high in lactose, protein, sugar, water, vitamins and minerals.

  • Stage 2:   Milk thickens and appears more like cow’s milk. In this stage, milk has a higher fat content and contains less sugar.

From proteins and fats and carbohydrates to protective antibodies, breast milk is perfect for your baby. Regardless of how much or how often you baby feds, one thing is for certain: your breast milk is the most nutritionally complete meal your baby can enjoy.

Further Reading:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586783/

https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/transitional-milk

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