Breastmilk – How Does It Adapt To The Needs Of Your Baby?
Created by Dr. Surbhi Saini Updated on May 28, 2018
Your breastmilk has immunity-building components that respond dynamically to your baby’s changing requirements. Now, there is absolutely no second thought about the fact that your breastmilk is the ideal food for your baby; at least in the first six months of his/her life. Breastmilk contains all the essential fatty acids, vitamins and nutrients that your baby needs for his/her growth and development – right from the time of birth to up to six months after birth. Now, you may think, why is breastmilk such an ideal food for your baby? Well, that’s because it has stomach-friendly and growth-promoting nutrients such as whey protein, which is gentle on your tiny tot’s digestive tract. In fact, higher whey content helps in faster gastric emptying. Moreover, breastmilk is great for your child’s brain development, vision development and is good for his/her gut too!
The Composition of Breastmilk Changes with Time:
The composition of your breastmilk varies at different points of lactation to suit the need of your baby. The milk of a mother who has delivered a preterm baby is different from the milk of a mother who has delivered a term baby. Moreover, as your baby grows, his/her nutritional requirements change. And guess what! The composition of your breastmilk also changes in order to adapt to your baby’s growing needs!
Colostrum- It’s the milk secreted during the initial 3-4 days after delivery. It is small in quantity, yellow coloured and thick. It contains a large number of antibodies, immune competent cells and vitamins A, D, E and K. Colostrum will help your baby develop his/her immune system, which in turn will help him/her fight infections.
Transitional milk- this is secreted after 3-4 days and goes up to 2 weeks. The immunoglobulin and protein content decreases and fat and sugar content increases.
Mature milk- it follows transitional milk. Its thinner, watery but contains all essential nutrients for your baby. Thus, your baby’s thirst or water-need is also taken care of.
Pre-term milk- it is the milk of a mother who has delivered a preterm baby (before 37 weeks). It contains more proteins, sodium, iron, immunoglobulins, and calories as per the requirement of the preterm baby.
Foremilk- it is secreted at the start of the feed. It is watery and rich in proteins, sugar, vitamins, minerals and water that quenches your baby’s thirst.
Hindmilk- it comes later, towards the end of a feed, and is richer in fat that provides more energy and gives a sense of satiety.
Thus, the composition of breastmilk also varies during the phase of feeding. For optimum growth, your baby needs both foremilk and hindmilk. Therefore, your baby should be allowed to empty out one breast completely before switching to the other breast.
In the initial 6 months, only breastmilk should be fed. If some circumstances don’t allow, always consult your doctor before starting formula feed, with vitamin supplements if needed.
Benefits of Breastmilk:
- Brain development - DHA primarily influences brain function
- Vision development - ARA helps in structuring muscles
- Physical growth
- Disease-fighting ability
- Prevents obesity
- Prevents long-term diseases
- Prevents allergies
- Right quality and quantity of proteins help in maintaining long term health
- Prevents risk of diseases like diabetes and obesity
- Improves bonding
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Disclaimer: SHSH programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Consult a doctor for queries about your or your child's health.