When I became a mom to my first baby, I was not aware that the baby’s first food should be the first drops of breast milk. After getting a lot of advice and full support from my family the first thing I fed my baby with were the initial few drops of breast milk. These milk drops are rich in nutrients and are like a magic potion for her. Despite my C-Section delivery, I made sure that my baby had this first thick yellow milk- Colostrum even though it was quite painful to breastfeed for the first time.
Breast milk contains everything that the baby needs for the first six months of life, in all the right proportions and so most health authorities recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months. Continued breastfeeding is then recommended for at least one year, as different foods are introduced into the baby’s diet.
During the first months of life, maternal milk is the best source of nutrition for the newborn. It contains the ideal amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals and other essentials required in promoting the growth.
When it comes to nutritious content in breast milk, mature milk contains 0.8-0.9% of proteins, 6.9-7.2% of carbohydrates and 3-5 % of fats. The protein content is comparatively higher than carbohydrate content which is lower in colostrum than in mature milk.
What is Protein & why it is important for a baby?
Protein is a vital nutrient that provides structure and function to the human body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When protein is digested in your baby’s stomach, it breaks down into amino acids. There are over 20 different amino acids found in breast milk, which makes it the most important source of nutrition for the baby.
Proteins play an important role in overall growth and development of the baby, what also matters is the quality and quantity of protein intake as high intake can have a long-term negative impact such as obesity and low intake can leave the baby with the weak immune system making him more prone to illness.
Types of Protein in Breast Milk
Human milk contains two types of proteins: whey and casein which are present in the ideal quantity required to fulfill the nutritional needs of baby i.e. 60% is whey and 40% is casein. When the baby is born, the ratio of whey: casein in breast milk is 90:10 but as it becomes more mature the ratio changes to 60:40 and as the time goes on the quantity of whey protein keeps on lowering down in order to keep the quantity as same as of casein.
Whey: These types of proteins are liquid by nature and so are easy to digest by the immature baby’s stomach.
Lactoferrin: It is a part of whey protein which is responsible for binding iron throughout the body, it is also responsible for allowing the baby to fight infections and diseases making his immune system stronger
Casein: These types of proteins are more complex which in turn are harder to digest
Human Milk also contains an ideal amount of DHA & ARA which is mainly responsible for the brain and vision development in infants. DHA is the 22-carbon, long-chain fatty acid found in breast milk and plays a key role in the structure and function of neural tissues, most notably those of the retina and brain whereas ARA is the 20- carbon fatty acid which is also found in breast milk and is responsible for structuring the muscles and boosting immunity.
Proteins in Breast Milk are present in appropriate quantity as per the nutritional needs of the baby and so one should try to breastfeed the baby as much as she can in order to avoid any lifelong diseases. Breastfeeding is painful, time-consuming and overwhelming but still, it is the most natural thing that comes to a woman. One should always consult lactation expert for a joyful breastfeeding experience.
When it comes to digestion, breast milk has appropriate quantity & quality of proteins which can digest easily, however many mothers opt for cow’s milk due to one or other reason which has higher quantity and concentrations of protein and minerals which can stress a newborn’s immature kidneys and have other adverse effects. It is always advisable to consult a pediatrician to look out for closest alternatives of breast milk if one’s medical/physical condition does not allow to breastfeed.
I support and encourage breastfeeding – for a hundred reasons and benefits that it offers to mums and babies.
Disclaimer: Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child