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Understanding the composition of breast milk

Understanding the composition of breast milk

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Breastfeeding is the best way to provide optimum nutrition to infants for proper growth and development. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended upto 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods upto two years of age or beyond.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Breast milk is nutritious.

Owing to its nutritional and immunological values, breast milk is considered to be the best feed for a baby. Its other benefits include biochemical superiority to other milks as well as microbiological safety. Breast milk is also far superior to other complementary food items in terms of nutrient fulfillment. Ideally your baby must be breast-fed within half an hour after normal delivery and within 4 hours in case of a C-section.

The nutrient composition of breast milk includes fat, protein, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. The following table provides details about the composition of breast milk.

Composition of a mother’s breast milk.

 
NutrientQuantity per 100 ml
Fat3.8g
total13%
Essential fatty acids1.2:1
Linoleate0.51g
DHA0.3 mg
  
Protein 
caseine0.3g
Caseine:whey ratio40:60
a-lactalbumin0.3g
lactoferrin0.2 g
IgA0.1
IgG0.001
serum albumin0.05
  
Carbohydrate 
lactose7gm
oligosaccharides0.5gm
  
Minerals 
calcium33 mg
Phosphorus15mg
sodium16mg
potassium55mg
chlorine43mg
magnesium4mg
iron0.05-0.15mg
iodine7µg
zinc0.53mg
  
Vitamins 
Vitamin A53 µg
Vitamin D0.4-10 IU
Vitamin E0.2 mg
Vitamin C4.3 mg
thiamine16 µg
riboflavin43 µg
niacin171 µg
Vitamin B-611 µg
Folic acid0.18 µg
Vitamin B-120.18 µg

Source: Nutrition & Child Development by K.E. Elizabeth

Change of breast milk composition after birth.

The composition of human milk changes rapidly during the postpartum period as secretions evolve from colostrum to mature milk. There are three stages of lactation changes that happen in the postpartum days - colostrum (0–5 days), transitional milk (6–14 days), and mature milk (15–30 days).

Colostrum: When the baby is born, a thick, yellowish milk is secreted. This milk is called colostrum and it comes out of the breast for the first couple of days . Colostrum is rich in proteins and immunoglobulins and is essential for the baby.

Transitional Milk: The secretion of transitional milk starts after colostrum and before mature milk. This secretion happens between the 4th-10th days after birth. The composition of this milk is somewhere between that of colostrum and mature milk.

Mature milk: Produced after transitional milk, mature milk continues to change over the course of the first year. The nutritional composition of breast milk gradually decreases by 10% to 30%. Due to this change in the composition of milk and the increased needs of the baby, complementary feeding needs to be introduced after your baby is 6 months old.

The composition of the breast milk changes throughout the first year of lactation.

Fore and hind milk: Breast milk also changes during each feeding session. The milk that comes out of the breast first is called foremilk and it is quite watery. Milk coming out later is called hindmilk and it is creamier and may have 50% more fat.

Encourage your baby to breastfeed: The baby should be allowed to suckle for as long as she desires for two reasons. One, to satisfy the suckling instinct of the baby and two, to express the hind milk. If the baby suckles only for a few minutes, she gets only foremilk which is thinner and just satisfies her thirst. On the other hand, longer periods of suckling feeds the baby with the hind

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