breastmilk

Breastmilk Also Known as Liquid gold

Unsure whether breastmilk for your baby is the way to go? Dietitian Yvonne O'Halloran looks at the benefits

Breastmilk is simply incredible and is often referred by many as 'liquid gold'. Breastmilk is the absolute best nutrition a parent can offer their baby, particularly for newborns, as it is designed by the mother's body to specifically suit her baby. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that if possible, baby is exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Breastmilk is still very important beyond the first six months.

Once solids are introduced breastmilk continues to provide important nutrients and growth factors up to two years. Remember breastmilk (or formula if this is not possible) is their primary nutrition source until 12 months. The WHO recommends breastmilk continue to be part of the young child's diet, up to two years of age and beyond, as long as mum and baby are happy to continue.

Breastmilk contains all the nutrients the infant needs for proper growth and development. These nutrients include free water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and trace elements.

The Infant Nutrition Council (Australia and New Zealand) states that breast milk also contains important antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, hormones and growth factors that are important for protection against infections and immune-mediated diseases.

Colostrum - first milk for baby
When a baby is born, the mother's breasts contain colostrum, which is a nutrient packed with easily digested proteins that is lower in fat and sugar than transitional and mature breastmilk. This makes it easy for little tummies to digest.

Colostrum contains antibodies, white blood cells and many other immune properties that strengthens a brand-new immune system. Colostrum is a natural laxative too, so baby can easily move their bowels and get rid of meconium (a blackish coloured tar-like poo that will collect in your babies' bowels before their birth).

Transitional milk
Around two to five days after the mother has given birth, her milk will start to 'come in'. This is known as transitional milk and will ensure your newborn baby will continue to grow. This milk has higher levels of fat and increased lactose which will give your baby energy. Over time, a woman's breasts work out supply and demand, so if more milk is removed, more milk will be produced.

Mature milk
Your milk will become mature about one month after you have given birth. This mature milk will suit your baby throughout their first year, and beyond. This milk won't change, however, it will adapt if your child is sick in an attempt to help the child fight off an infection.

 

Other benefits to the baby
There are so many benefits the baby has such as:

• Regular skin to skin with their mum, which can help regulate the infant's blood sugars.

• Satisfies hunger and thirst; no need for anything else (even water) for the first six months of life.

• Milk is created specifically for that baby.

• Natural and available.

• Reduced risk of diabetes, ear infections, obesity and asthma in later life.

• Reduced risk of viruses, respiratory infections, inflammatory bowel disease and urinary tract infections. A study by the International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health found that infants were exclusively breastfed in the first four months were shown to have a 50 per cent decrease in the number of ear infections, GI disorders and onset of insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.

• Less stomach upset, constipation and diarrhea.

• Infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to have less hospital admissions.

• Helps colonise your baby's gut with friendly bacteria (antibodies, hormones and prebiotics) that leads to a healthier and stronger immune system.

• Reduced risk of SIDS.

• Protective against diabetes type 1, spinal meningitis, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

• Your baby may be smarter!

• Can help prevent obesity later in life.

• Introduces different flavours to baby early in life (depending on what the mother eats). Allows baby to finish when full, so baby can learn to follow their hunger cues from a young age.

Benefits to the mum
Not only does breast milk have benefits to the baby, but breastfeeding can provide benefits to the mum:

• More time spent bonding with her baby.

 

• Some mothers who breastfeed find it is easier to lose postpartum weight because exclusively breastfeeding can burn up to 500-600 calories per day.

• Women who breastfeed may have a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer cardiovascular disease and postpartum depression.

• Helps her body and uterus contract and shrink back down to normal size again.

• It's free and convenient.

• It's always fresh and available.

• No prep/bottles/sanitising needed - unless you pump! Remember, even though breastfeeding is natural and considered the best way to feed your infant and toddler, it can be a very difficult road for many women. Support is extremely important from family members, friends and health professionals. Reaching out for help is important because a happy and well nourished baby is the end goal.

Find Yvonne on Facebook at @livingvegandietitian

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VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.