The idea that a mother’s body can produce all a baby needs for the first six months of life is astounding – almost as mind-blowing as the fact that two single cells meet to create a billions-and billions-celled person in just nine months.
Breastmilk is an amazing function of the human (and mammals in general) body and an incredible nod to evolution and biology. The actual composition of breastmilk though is not common knowledge, even among veteran mothers.
In honor of August, National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Alzein Pediatrics and Certified Lactation Counselor Kim Reule, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, are here to explain this phenomenal foodstuff.
First Comes Colostrum
In the first few days of a baby’s life, the mother produces a thick substance called colostrum. At this time, small, frequent feedings are to be expected because a newborn baby’s stomach is about the size of a cherry, and on the first day will only eat a tablespoon at a time, which is all the mother that needs to make.
“Colostrum is dense in proteins, fats, necessary sugars, and immune factors. The immune factors coat Baby’s digestive system to protect against germs and also act as a laxative to help baby with the first week of bowel movements,” says Ms. Reule.
Although colostrum is the primary food source for the first four to five days of a Baby’s life, it is present in breastmilk for the first few weeks, mixing with transitional milk to provide further assistance to the Baby.
What is Actually in Breastmilk?
After colostrum, the milk matures to a perfectly balanced combination of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Breastmilk contains everything a Baby needs to grow and develop physically and cognitively:
- Two different types of proteins: whey (60%) and casein (40%) make the liquid easiest for a baby to digest and provide “infection-protection properties.”
- The fats found in breastmilk are also supplied to the Baby in the third trimester in utero to support brain development and the primary calorie source.
- Carbohydrates, which are primarily lactose, provide 40% of calories. They also help fight disease and promotes healthy bacterial growth in the baby’s stomach.
The immunity that breastmilk provides is unmatched but is also tied directly to Mom’s nutrition, which is why it is recommended that mothers keep taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding.
Breastmilk contains fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as water-soluble vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. In addition to these essential vitamins, breastmilk also contains Leukocytes, which are living cells that are only found in breastmilk to prevent infection.
Talk to Ms. Reule About Do and Don’ts
Despite all the vitamins and nutrients in breastmilk, Alzein Pediatrics may also recommend providing supplemental vitamin D. Vitamin D assists the Baby’s body in calcium absorption, promotes strong bones, and helps prevent rickets (a condition where the bones soften in growing children). Exclusively breastfed babies will likely need vitamin D supplements to ensure they are receiving 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Please talk to us about whether or not your baby may need this additional supplement.
The only age where consuming water is dangerous for health is when a baby is under six months of age. Whether you provide breastmilk or formula, your baby is getting all the hydration that is needed for optimal health. Providing extra water or watering down the primary food source (breastmilk or formula) can result in the following consequences:
- Decrease in appetite because the baby’s stomach is filling up with water, which will lead to a decrease in weight gain
- Decrease in milk supply from Mom because Baby is not drinking as much milk
- Water intoxication, where too much water flushes out the kidneys of essential electrolytes and sodium, risking the possibility of seizures
If for any reason you are concerned about Baby’s hydration, contact our office immediately.
No Matter What – Feed Your Baby
We recommend all our moms try to breastfeed. You and Baby will likely struggle with latching on, milk production, or in various other ways. Alzein Pediatrics and Ms. Reule are here to provide unparalleled support, from initial latching on, comfortable positioning, and judging Baby’s appetite and milk supply, so when you or Baby wants to wean.
We will also strongly support you if you decide breastfeeding just isn’t working for you or your Baby.
Whether your baby is exclusively breastfed, formula fed, or consumes a combination of breastmilk and formula, the important thing is your baby is fed, happy, and healthy.
Fed is always best, and you are a good mother for ensuring that your baby is just that.
Questions about breastfeeding or your child’s health in general? Call us at 708-424-7600 or click here to make an appointment. You can also visit Our Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn/95th Street, and Urgent Care locations. We are always here to help!