Breast milk is the best food for most babies. The mother’s milk contains the exact nutrients the baby needs as he or she grows. Did you know that breast milk actually changes in composition over time to provide for the growing infant’s nutritional needs? Breast milk also contains antibodies to protect the small infant from diseases. This is important because very young babies often cannot yet receive the immunizations and vaccinations he or she will need to protect them from serious infections.
Many antibodies in the mother’s blood will likely be present in the breast milk as well and may confer immunity against these diseases for the baby. However, it’s important to note that this type of protection is passive. This means it won’t last once breastfeeding is over. plus, the antibodies that are passed thru breastmilk are only ones that mom is actively making at that moment. it does not include antibodies mom may have made in the past to previous infections. That’s why the baby will need his or her own vaccinations when the proper time comes.
While allergies to baby formula can sometimes occur, a true allergy to breast milk is extremely rare.
Colostrum: Your Baby’s First Meal
The first milk to come in right after delivery is called colostrum. It’s thicker than regular breast milk and is yellowish in color. It’s highly concentrated in nutrients and high in both antibodies and antioxidants. These antioxidants are mostly derived from vitamin A and help to protect cells from damage. Colostrum is also high in growth factors.
High in protein and low in both fat and sugar, colostrum is sometimes called liquid gold because it’s so beneficial for a newborn. Colostrum will flow for about two to four days; after that, the breast milk turns into the transitional phase, then to the mature milk phase. Further benefits of colostrum include:
- Helps prevent low blood sugar
- Helps to establish your baby’s microbiome or healthy intestinal environment
- Helps to expel meconium, baby’s first feces, from the intestines
- Strengthens the immune system
- Provides ideal newborn nutrition
After about two days, colostrum will slowly be diluted by transitional milk. Over a period of five days to two weeks, transitional milk will slowly be replaced by mature milk. You will know its mature milk by its bluish color and thinner consistency. Breast milk is naturally sweet. The sweet taste comes from lactose, breast milk’s natural sugar. It provides healthy energy for the growing infant. As your milk supply changes from colostrum to transitional milk to mature milk, you may notice that your breasts feel much fuller and might be tender. This is normal. It just means your body is producing more mature milk for your baby.
Breast Milk and your Diet
Diet is critical for the breastfeeding mother. She will need about 300 to 400 extra calories a day. Diet should consist of foods with complete protein, such as meats, dairy and fish. Canned tuna and other fish high in mercury should be avoided as much as possible. Other healthy diet choices include peanut butter, whole grains, nuts, seeds, plant milks, beans and fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit refined sugar as much as possible.
Your diet can actually change the flavor of your breast milk. If you eat a varied diet, it may be easier to introduce your baby to different solid foods when the time comes.
The nursing mother should avoid alcohol altogether until after the baby is weaned. It passes into the breast milk, and there is no known safe amount for the baby to consume.
What About Caffeine?
The mother can choose to drink decaffeinated coffee, but there is typically no harm from regular coffee as long as mom chooses to drink only 1 cup per day. excess caffeine can cause the baby not to sleep well or to have higher amounts of reflux. More concentrated forms of the beverage, such as espresso, would contain more CAFFEINE.
Common Myths about Breastfeeding
Some myths about breastfeeding include those about bonding. Although breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, any kind of feeding is still a bonding experience. You can bond with your baby during formula feeding, too. Think of it like this: fathers and siblings bond with the baby, too, and they don’t breastfeed.
Myth: although your baby is born with a rooting and sucking reflex, he or she doesn’t automatically “know” how to breastfeed. Most mothers and babies will need support as they learn how to successfully breastfeed. Breastfeeding takes patience. Do not become discouraged if it doesn’t work perfectly right away. Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician for help.
Myth: Breastfeeding only benefits babies. Not true! Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression or the “baby blues.”
Myth: Breastfeeding in public is rude. You have the legal right to feed your baby in any public place if you so choose. Some mothers may feel more comfortable in a more private place, but this isn’t necessary. You can discreetly feed your hungry infant anywhere. Just bring a light blanket and toss it over your shoulder.
Myth: You cannot breast and bottle feed at the same time. Some people think that a breastfed baby will automatically refuse a bottle. While this is true for some infants, most will accept either a bottle or a breast. This makes it easy for anyone to give your baby breast milk in a bottle when you can’t be there. to establish a great latch, wait until 1 month of age to introduce a bottle.
Myth: All medications are banned for a breastfeeding mom. While it’s true that some medications are unsafe to use during breastfeeding, many are safe. Ask your doctor or pediatrician if the medication you take is safe for your breastfed baby.
Myth: Babies should be weaned at the age of one year. It’s best for babies to be breastfed for at least the first six months. After that, mothers may continue to breastfeed for up to one year or even longer. There is no set schedule to stop breastfeeding a baby.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula
Not every mother will be able to breastfeed. If this happens to you, you should not feel bad or guilty. It’s not your fault. There are many reasons why a woman cannot or should not breastfeed:
- The mother carries certain viruses like HIV
- The mother has active TB
- The mother is taking certain medications that pass into the breastmilk
- The baby has galactosemia, an inability to tolerate a sugar called galactose
- The mother has had previous breast surgery
- The baby has a genetic metabolic disorder
European Baby Formulas
There are many excellent baby formulas on the market for you to choose from. European baby formulas are not regulated by the FDA as American formulas are. with supply chain issues, these formulas may have been sitting on cargo ships for months and may contain contaminants.
Ask your pediatrician about European baby formulas before you choose one.
If you cannot breastfeed, don’t waste time and energy feeling bad about it. Work with your pediatrician to choose the best formula for your child. Many babies do fine on formula. Likely yours will, too.