Breastfeedingis best for baby
Breastmilk: Everything Your Baby Needs
New parents prioritize their baby's well-being, striving to provide the best possible physical and mental care. Nutrition is the foundation for healthy development. During the first four to six months, a baby feeds exclusively on milk. Unquestionably, breast milk is the best option for your child, as it contains everything a baby needs.
What Are the Benefits of Breast Milk?
Breast milk is more than just food; it provides everything your baby needs to grow and thrive. Its composition of water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies ensures a balanced, easily digestible, and nutritious diet. Moreover, breast milk is always at the right temperature and is hygienically perfect. It contains antibodies that reduce the risk of intestinal problems, urinary tract inflammation, respiratory system issues, allergies, middle ear infections, and can even kill pathogens.
Adapting to Your Baby's Needs
Studies show that early-life nutrition significantly impacts future health. Babies who exclusively consume breast milk during their first months of life are less likely to develop obesity, autoimmune diseases (such as diabetes), tooth decay, and have better cognitive development later in life. Breast milk is highly adaptable, adjusting its concentrations of ingredients and volume to cater to the baby's needs based on their developmental stage, season, daily fluctuations, meal-to-meal variations, or illness. Each child receives their unique milk, tailored specifically for them.
Breastmilk Production Phases
The so-called first milk (colostrum) forms during pregnancy and is available to the newborn in the first two to three days. Colostrum is slightly yellowish due to its carotene content and is viscous and nutrient-dense, containing numerous antibodies. These protect the baby from infections and stimulate their immune system. Additionally, this first breast milk is rich in protein, vitamins, and trace elements but contains less fat and carbohydrates than later breast milk, making it easily digestible.
After the third day, the milk's composition gradually changes. The so-called transitional milk contains more fat and sugar. The milk volume also increases, often causing the breasts to swell significantly. Many new mothers find the milk intake during this phase uncomfortable. This transitional phase lasts about 14 days.
From about the third week, "mature" breast milk is produced. It contains significantly more fat and calories than the first milk and the transitional milk. Yet, it still provides everything a baby needs for healthy development, such as fat, protein, sugar, vitamins, and minerals. The mature milk changes over time, even during each feeding, to meet various needs. Initially, the breast milk is mainly water and thin to quench the baby's thirst. After the first few sips, the milk becomes thicker, richer in fat and calories, to satisfy the baby's nutritional requirements.
The Composition of Breast Milk
Breast milk contains numerous valuable substances that adapt to the nutritional needs of a growing baby. For every 100ml, breast milk has a nutritional value of approximately 67 calories, mainly consisting of around 7g of carbohydrates, 4g of fat, and 1.5g of protein, along with many other nutrients. The following overview highlights the richness and value of breast milk.
- Carbohydrates: Lactose (milk sugar) is the primary carbohydrate in breast milk. It is a disaccharide sugar, composed of glucose and galactose, and is easily digestible. Lactose has several essential functions, such as promoting the absorption of amino acids and minerals and supporting rapid brain growth. Indigestible carbohydrates, known as oligosaccharides (multiple sugars), are vital for healthy gut flora. In the colon, they stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- Lipids (fats): Babies require a lot of calories (energy) for growth. Fat is an excellent source of energy, and breast milk is relatively high in fat (higher than cow's milk, for example). The essential fats in breast milk are cholesterol and linoleic acid. With a total of 4% fat in breast milk, cholesterol accounts for 25%, and linoleic acid accounts for 22%. Cholesterol plays a critical role in optimal brain development during the first few months, as it is an essential component of glial cells.
- Protein: The protein content of breast milk is 1.5%, which means it is precisely adapted to the immature digestive system of a newborn. Higher amounts of protein, like those found in cow's milk (3.5% protein), would be difficult for the baby to digest. The high proportion of whey proteins, a group of easily digestible proteins, is particularly noteworthy. Whey proteins don't stay in the stomach for long and don't put much strain on it. Protein is essential for a baby's growth. During digestion, proteins break down into the smallest building blocks, amino acids, which ensure proper growth. Other proteins have a high protective effect, helping fight infections. These immunoglobulins, better known as antibodies, are passed from the mother to the baby through breast milk, supporting the baby's immune system.
Many vitamins are present in breast milk. These are some of the most important ones:
- Vitamin A positively affects growth, skin, vision, and the immune system.
- Vitamin E supports metabolism and protects unsaturated fatty acids.
- Vitamin D and K are essential for bone formation and blood clotting.
- Vitamins of the B group regulate energy metabolism and are beneficial for the nervous system and muscle regeneration.
- Vitamin C is an indispensable helper for the immune system, playing a crucial role in blood defense.
- Minerals and trace elements: Essential minerals like calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) strengthen bones. Iron (Fe) is vital for the formation of red blood cells and brain development. Trace elements, as the name suggests, are present in the smallest amounts or traces. However, these are precisely the quantities that a baby's body needs. Notable trace elements include selenium (Se), which protects cells, and chromium (Cr) and zinc (Zn), which participate in numerous metabolic processes.