Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breastmilk: The Perfect Food

Breastmilk varies in composition from colostum to transitional milk to mature milk and each stage is perfect for your baby's stage of development. 

Colostrum can begin leaking during the last trimester of pregnancy and is produced during the first few days (1-7 days) after birth.  It contains a higher amount of protein and less fat than transitional or mature milk. It is thick and sticky and coats and protects the infant's stomach.  It is high in antibodies and acts as the first immunization for your baby. Colostrum has a laxative effect on the newborn, helping your baby pass the meconium stool.  It also comes in teaspoons and not ounces, making it the perfect amount for a newborn whose stomach is the size of a walnut.

Transitional milk is the breast milk that transitions from colostrum to mature milk.  Transitional milk is produced from approximately day 8 through the second or third week in most women.  However, when moms deliver a baby prematurely, transitional milk can last much longer as it is the perfect milk to help the baby grow in that stage of development.  Transitional milk includes high levels of fat, lactose, water-soluble vitamins, and contains more calories than colostrum.

Mature milk is usually present at about 21 days after birth and going forward. It can vary in fat content, as the fat of the milk received by the infant increases as the feed progresses.  This progression is also called hindmilk.  Mature human breast milk is 80% water and contains whey proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, hormones, anti-infective and anti-allergenic agents. These enzymes, hormones, anti-infective and anti-allergenic agents cannot be reproduced in an artificial milk. Human milk has a combination of amino acids that is unique to human milk. The type of protein and the finely balanced combination of different amino acids such as glutamic acid and taurine enable the baby to digest and absorb fats in their intestines in the first few weeks of life. The combination of ingredients in breast milk actually changes and matures as the baby grows older, to specifically suit your baby's changing needs. 

Each stage of breasmilk is perfectly formulated for your baby's needs as they grow and develop,  You are enough for your baby.  It is the main source of nutrition thoughout the first year.  After six months when your baby is stitting completely alone, if you wish to being solid foods, know that this is a complement to breastmilk and not to take the place of their superior food.  Nurse first and give a small amount of solids immediately afterward.  This way your baby doesn't fill up on anything other than breastmilk.

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