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Lead Consultant Neonatologist and Pediatrician
While you have been reading up on how to take care of your baby, how to breastfeed etc., did you get a chance to understand why breastfeeding and breast milk are so important? Breast milk for babies is a highly discussed topic at medical forums and in healthcare journals. In fact, the recently celebrated World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 – August 8, 2019) brought to light the importance of breastfeeding and the properties of breast milk that help babies grow.
Breast milk can be considered as the “elixir of life” for babies. By depriving them of their right to nutrition, we are paving the way for a generation of unhealthy adults who can be prone to diabetes, weak bones, respiratory problems, stunted growth, Cardiovascular problems and many more.
Here are a few things that every mother should know about breast milk which can help build a better understanding of this important and natural element of motherhood.
1. Breast Milk Is Available in Three Stages
It is a common fact that breast milk for babies is “as good as it can be”. Packed with nutrients, breast milk is good for babies as it helps build immunity and protects the little one against diseases or developmental disorders. However, did you know that the nutrient composition of the milk is not constant but changes as the baby grows?
The breast milk composition has nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and many others and changes every week as the baby’s body develops from one week to another. Based on the growth factors, the milk is available in the following stages: –
Colostrum: This is the first thick milk that is produced naturally in mothers during the course of their pregnancy. It is a yellowish fluid which is given just after birth and has antibodies that boosts your baby’s immunity and protects her from infection. Colostrum is also very important to aid your baby’s digestive system and contribute to her overall healthy development.
Transitional Milk: This milk gradually replaces colostrum 4-5 days post-delivery and is given for up to two weeks. It is during this phase that mothers might feel their breasts get fuller and the milk changes to bluish-white colour. This change is significant as it is now changing to suit to baby’s needs and should be given regularly.
Mature Milk: This type of milk is produced 10-15 days after the birth of your baby. It has all the nutrients required for your baby’s development and has the right amount of fat to build the baby’s health and physical strength.
2. Breast Milk Is Unique
There is a reason why a baby is able to recognize her mother’s milk and is comfortable suckling from her breasts. Though we would like to say it is the emotional bond, it runs a little deeper than that. The baby is comforted by the smell of your milk which is similar to the amniotic fluid which nourished her while in the womb. The newborn is immediately relieved by the familiar taste and smell which makes it unique to you.
3. Breast Milk Can Be Affected by Different Factors
Your breast milk is subject to change in terms of smell and taste and if you are able to spot this difference, do not panic! It is very normal. Here are some of the factors that affect your milk:
Food & Medication
You are what you eat, and every morsel affects your body. Therefore, it is quite plausible that the food that you eat can greatly affect the flavour of the milk or change its smell. This is why breast-fed babies are more accepting of diverse solid foods in comparison to those who were fed formula milk. Medications also affect your milk and milk production.
Freezing or Thawing the Milk
Breast milk contains enzymes called lipase which affect its smell once frozen. Mothers might notice the milk’s becoming little soapy after defrosting and that is completely normal. It is a part of the natural process.
Storing your milk can also affect how the milk tastes, looks or smells. If left standing at the room temperature, it begins to separate into layers. Don’t worry as this is just the cream rising to the top. Swirl it lightly and feed it to your baby.
Though we have discussed the importance of breast milk for babies, it is equally important for mothers to breastfeed regularly as it helps keep diseases like breast cancer, high cholesterol and many others at bay. It is a natural process meant both for a healthy baby and her mother.
There are circumstances when breast milk may be scarce, and this may impact the young one’s health. In order to avoid the negative outcomes of feeding formula, one may consider the use of pasteurized donor human milk, which offers healthy feeding solution that retains the essential nutrients of breast milk.