It is a well-known fact that breastmilk is the best milk for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly urges women to engage in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of their baby’s life and continued breastfeeding until their baby is one-year-old. Breast milk has many benefits both for the baby and the mom. Children develop strong immunity, have a lowered risk of contracting asthma, obesity, and diabetes. While breastfeeding helps mothers contract the uterus and cease bleeding quicker after delivery, it also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and promotes bonding between the mother and the baby.
Moreover, the nutritive value of the breastmilk is also high. And, crucially, the proteins in breastmilk are not hard on a baby’s gut. They are more digestible than cow’s milk or formula milk. Also, the iron and calcium derived from mother’s milk are more readily absorbed by the baby’s gut.
Here’s an outline of what makes breastmilk and how it nourishes your baby:
There are two types of proteins found in mother’s milk – casein and whey. About 40 percent of milk protein is casein, while the remaining 60 percent is whey. It is this balanced ratio of the proteins that allows for quick absorption and digestion. Formula milk, on the other hand, has a high percentage of casein and is difficult to digest. About 60 to 80 percent of all human milk is whey protein. These proteins offer infection-defending properties to babies. And, here are some other proteins found in breast milk and their benefits:
- Lysozyme: It is an enzyme that protects babies against Salmonella and E.coli. It also promotes healthy intestinal flora and has anti-inflammatory functions.
- Secretory IgA: It protects the infant from bacteria and viruses, especially those that the baby, the mother or the family have been exposed to. It also defends the baby against allergies and E.Coli. IgG and IgM, other immunoglobulins present in breastmilk also keep infections at bay. Fish is an excellent source of protein, and can help increase the protein levels in your breastmilk.
- Lactoferrin: It impedes the growth of iron-dependent bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Yeast and coliforms are examples of microorganisms that require iron.
- Breastmilk also has a Bifidus factor that enhances the growth of lactobacillus, which is a beneficial bacteria protecting babies from harmful bacteria. Lactobacillus creates an acidic environment, which restricts the growth of harmful bacteria.
The fats in human milk are healthy for your baby. Fats in breastmilk are the primary energy source; they help absorb fat-soluble vitamins and promote brain development in babies. The long chain fatty acids deposited in the brain during your pregnancy’s last trimester. Long chain fatty acids are essential for retinal and nervous system development.
Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K are crucial to an infant’s health. The type and the amount of vitamins in breastmilk depend on what she consumes. Other water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid are also important for the baby. If the mother isn’t deriving adequate vitamins from food, she should consider taking prenatal vitamin supplements.
About 40 percent of calories derived from mother’s milk come from its lactose content – the primary carbohydrate in human milk. Lactose reduces unhealthy bacteria in the stomach. It absorbs minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Lactose helps fight diseases and enhances healthy bacterial flora in the stomach.
These living cells are found only in mother’s milk and help fight infections.
These constituents, apart from the enzymes and hormones in human milk, exist in a perfect combination and a ratio adequate for the healthy growth of your baby. Indeed, even formula milk cannot beat breastmilk, because it lacks the perfect blend and is devoid of the enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and living cells which occur naturally in a mother’s milk.
If women have issues with breastfeeding, they should be urged to talk to their lactation consultants. Should there be a need, it’s always better to opt for breastmilk donor banks than opting to cow’s or formula milk.