- In This Feature
- Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast Milk: The Perfect Food
- Protects Against Disease
- Health Benefits for Baby
- Improves Women's Health
- Quicker Weight Loss
- Reduces Obesity in Children and Teens
- Promotes Mother/Infant Bonding and Emotional Well-Being
- More Convenient/Less Expensive
- Expands Your Social Circle
- Encourages Infant/Father Bonding
Breast Milk: The Perfect Food
Breast milk is fluid (pardon the pun). It changes over time to meet the developing, nutritional needs of your baby.
Immediately after birth, a woman's breasts produce colostrum. This concentrated form of breast milk is packed with disease-fighting antibodies, carbohydrates, protein, essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins B, E, Zinc, and Beta Carotene. Colostrum is low in fat so your baby can digest it easily, reducing instances of gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Colostrum coats baby's gastro-intestinal tract with a protective barrier, safeguarding it against unwanted viruses and bacteria. Ingesting colostrum also hastens the excretion of meconium, baby's first stool. This helps remove excess bilirubin and lowers your baby's chances of developing jaundice.
After three to four days of nursing, colostrum is replaced by transitional milk, which is lighter in color and higher in fluids to protect the newborn infant from dehydration. A week to 10 days later, a woman's mature milk comes in. Over the next thirty days, this mature milk continues to change as caloric, carbohydrate, and fat contents rise and protein levels taper off. At six months, protein levels dip again as solid foods are introduced into the baby's diet.
Breast milk also undergoes changes within a single feed. During the first few minutes, the breasts produce foremilk, which is higher in fluid and satisfies baby's immediate need for liquids and carbohydrates. Hind milk, which is thicker with fat, provides the calories needed for an infant's optimal growth and brain development. Nursing as often as possible in the first few weeks establishes a consistent milk supply that adjusts as your baby grows.