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Why is Breast Milk so Nutritious?

Have you ever heard about the ship of hope? If not, you are highly recommended to read my posts because they talk about such interesting real life stories along with the required health information. It is the brain child of Sanjoy Hazarika a former correspondent of New York Times. The boats are equipped with laboratories and pharmacies and provide basic health care services including family planning, reproductive health, and children’s health and lab tests. People who live on the vast network of 2,500 plus islands on the Bramhaputra River are benefited by these boats.

Like these unique lives saving boats breast milk is amazingly intricate and it is the primary source of nutrition for the newborns. Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients, antibodies and other factors to promote the growth and development of the newborn. The World Health Organization says that breast milk meets the psychological requirements of the baby and should never be substituted and recommends exclusive breast milk for the first six months of life.

According to Infant Nutrition Council there are different stages in the production of breast milk. The first milk produced from day 1-7 is called colostrum. It contains high amounts of protein, less amount of fat and various immunizing factors for the baby. Then there is a period of transitional milk from 8-20 days of birth and finally the mature milk from 20 days after birth. The fore milk is produced during the beginning of the feed where it is watery and quenches the baby’s thirst. The hind milk is creamier and contains proteins, carbohydrates and minerals.

Breast milk also contains antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, hormones and growth factors. It contains leukocytes living cells that help to fight infection. The benefits of breast milk are many and I have discussed the major ones. It lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, increases the IQ of the baby, and decreases the likelihood of middle ear infections, cold and flu.

Spanish researchers have found a large microbial diversity of more than 700 species in breast milk which is called as microbiome. If the mother is heavier the bacteria was fewer in number. The presence of the microbiome in breast milk promotes the health of the child. The baby’s microbiome continues to grow during breast feeding. The secret for stressing the importance of breast feeding is that higher the number of the good bacteria that thrive the harder it makes for the harmful ones to get foothold.

A research study found a higher number of cancers fighting TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligands (TRIAL) in breast milk. This sums for the anticancer activity of the breast milk. No such factors were detected in formula milk. The above stresses the fact loud and clear in our heads that breastfeeding helps to prevent certain childhood cancers.

Scientists have found that breast milk induces genetic pathways. The breast milk contains immune protective components which lower the risk of all kinds of illnesses in a breast fed baby. The bio active compounds present in the milk regulate the development of the intestine. Breast milk promotes the link between the immune system and microbe population in the gut and maintains the stability of the baby’s intestine.

It is best to breast feed your baby exclusively for six months and then introduce solids gradually. The WHO advises to continue breast milk up to two years along with other healthy foods. Breast milk is such a precious gift of nature that each newborn baby has to enjoy. For those women who are not able to breast feed for some reason or the other breast feed milk banks or donor milk may be a wise alternative.

Take care,

Photo of baby by taoty
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