What’s In Breast Milk?
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and that breastfeeding continues for at least 12 months. It is optimal for both babies and mothers. For babies, it can protect against infections and reduce the rates of later health problems including diabetes, obesity, and asthma. For mothers breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract and bleeding to cease more quickly after delivery. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and also provides a great way for mothers to bond with their babies. The advantages of breastfeeding are numerous. Breast milk is ultimately the best source of nutrition for a new baby. Many components in breast milk help protect your baby against infection and disease. The proteins in breast milk are more easily digested than in formula or cow’s milk. The calcium and iron in breast milk are also more easily absorbed.
Nutrients Found in Breast Milk
The following is a brief overview of the components of breast milk and the nutrients they provide for your baby:
Human milk contains two types of proteins: whey and casein. Approximately 60% is whey, while 40% is casein. This balance of the proteins allows for quick and easy digestion. If artificial milk, also called formula, has a greater percentage of casein, it will be more difficult for the baby to digest. Approximately 60-80% of all protein in human milk is whey protein. These proteins have great infection-protection properties. Listed below are specific proteins that are found in breast milk and their benefits:
- Lactoferrin inhibits the growth of iron-dependent bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This inhibits certain organisms, such as coliforms and yeast, that require iron.
- Secretory IgA also works to protect the infant from viruses and bacteria, specifically those that the baby, mom, and family are exposed to. It also helps to protect against E. Coli and possibly allergies. Other immunoglobulins, including IgG and IgM, in breast milk also help protect against bacterial and viral infections. Eating fish can help increase the amount of these proteins in your breast milk.
- Lysozyme is an enzyme that protects the infant against E. Coli and Salmonella. It also promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora and has anti-inflammatory functions.
- Bifidus factor supports the growth of lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacteria that protect the baby against harmful bacteria by creating an acidic environment where it cannot survive.