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“Breast milk is the best thing for a newborn.” A phrase that you have probably heard one time or another. But what is really behind this?
Is breastmilk really just a little better than substitute milk and would the 2nd Best be nearly as good?
Have you ever wondered what makes breast milk so special? Can formula not do the same these days?
I mean, we live in the 21st century. We can reproduce nature pretty well, can’t we? After all, we make ears grow on mice and we clone sheep.
Personally, that also interested me very much. Especially since I was sitting in the hospital for Doppler examination in my pregnancy. Because there were two posters hanging side by side. One with the ingredients of the formula, one with the ingredients of breast milk.
One poster was about 2 pages long. Pretty much, right?
Not really, because the breast milk poster was about 4 times as long and reached to the floor! That impressed me a lot and has not let go since.
The following similar poster roughly reproduces the relations:
What makes breast milk so unique and what is breast milk all about?
After some research and after reading the German book “Intuitives Stillen” (“Intuituve Breastfeeding”), one thing was clear to me: With the current state of science, it is impossible to artificially produce something that is only close enough to mother’s milk.
You do not believe me? Then be sure to check out the first and last point of the 15 amazing facts I found out about human breast milk.
If you are still interested in breastfeeding and breast milk, I recommend the book “Intuitives Stillen”. I dedicated a short chapter to this book at the end of the blog post.
1 Always the perfect composition
The composition of breast milk reads like a long list of important ingredients for the development of your child. But the number and distribution of shares is not static at all.
In fact, the composition changes throughout the entire breastfeeding period, throughout the day and even during a nursing meal!
Breast milk, for example, adapts to the child’s age, the seasons, the child’s current needs and the time of day.
That alone is hard to understand, but breast milk is different even in the two breasts of a woman. This may also explain why my 1 1/2 year old regularly wants to decide for himself which breast he wants right now. So sometimes the full one is rejected, because the other one just tastes better 😉
2 Calming and waking
The so controversial co-sleeping, and now you can sit back and relax, is the most natural thing in the world. Mother’s breast knows the rhythm of the day and knows exactly when it is time for the baby to sleep.
Therefore, breast milk contains more serotonin during the night and makes the baby calm, satisfied and sleepy.
During the day on the contrary are more stimulating substances in the breast milk, which helps the baby to wake up and start the day.
Nursing your baby to sleep is and has always been the easiest and most natural way to help your baby to fall asleep. No new-fashion sleep training can keep up with.
You can often observe that many toddlers only drink in the evening and in the morning on Mama’s breast and sleep through the rest of the night. Perfect timing 😉
3 Boys get more fat
This point really surprised me. The gender of the baby affects the breast milk: Boys get 25% more fat than girls. Girls get a little more milk for that.
Even science has no real explanation for this from todays perspektive. It is believed that the mother’s body already knows the gender of the child during pregnancy and prepares for it.
For example, the woman’s breast will grow more when she expects a boy and the energy intake is higher. To read further, you can find a German article here: www.t-online.de/mehr-kalorien-jungs-bekommen-die-bessere-muttermilch.html.
For me that explains well, why breastfed boys are often a bit heavier and breastfed girls are a bit more tenuous.
Nature knows exactly why this has become so prevalent and has been proven for thousands of years, whereas we can only speculate 😉
4 Optimal distribution of fat, proteins and carbohydrates
The many discussions and hypes of adults about carbohydrates, proteins and fats, let babies cold. Its because they already get the perfect mixture in the form of breast milk.
Made up on average 3.5% fat, 1-1.5% protein and 7.0% carbohydrates, this perfect blend is designed for human development, with a focus on brain development.
The carbohydrates are largely lactose and are responsible, among other things, for the sweet taste of the milk. Or as my son would say: “Mmmyuumya”.
The fat composition may vary by the diet of the mother. The fat content depends on the duration of breastfeeding and the sex of the child.
Breast milk basically contains two types of protein: casein and lactalbumin, the ratio between them ensures that breast milk is well digestible.
The following German article deals more intensively with this topic: www.netdoktor.at/muttermilch.
5 Designed for the digestion of the baby
The digestion of the baby is not yet fully developed at birth. Important bacteria are still missing and the digestive tract has to prepare for solid food for weeks and months.
Breast milk should therefore be the exclusive food for the first 6 months and should be available to infants beyond the first year to better digest solid foods.
Because breast milk is in contrast to formula and solid food very easy to digest and optimally designed for the immature digestive tract.
Therefore, an infant may initially have a bowel movement with each breastfeed because the milk does not stay long in the digestive tract.
6 The perfect food for the brain
Each breast milk is specially designed for each species Cows, for example, are precocial animals that produce mature cubs. Breast milk is therefore designed to rapidly build fat and muscles, so that the young can soon run with the herd quickly.
Young calves double their weight within 7 days. Human babies within 6 months.
Humans are clinging young (see Wikipedia), that is, they are born unfinished (similar to nidicolous birds) but from the beginning they are taken along with the “herd” like monkeys. Human babys want to be carried.
Human breast milk is therefore not designed for growth but for optimal development of the human brain. Cow’s milk is therefore not an optimal alternative to breast milk.
In addition, studies show that breast-fed babies have over20 to 30% more white substance of the brain than babies fed with baby food. Thats good, isn*t it? 😉
Related to this topic, this German article is also interesting: www.scinexx.de/muttermilch-foerdert-hirnentwicklung/.
7 Breast milk is alive
If you look at breast milk under a microscope, there is a lot of activity, because one teaspoon of breast milk contains 3 million living maternal cells that fight pathogens.
The dizzy cells include leukocytes, lymphocytes and macrophages. They inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites and can even destroy cancer cells.
Each nursing meal is like a small syringe for the immune system of the child, and without tears and pain for the child 😉
For anyone who does not shake the thought ;), there is a video on this:
8 Breast milk contains stem cells
Breast milk contains 10,000 – 13,000,000 living stem cells per milliliter, which can be transformed into any body cells, such as brain cells.
The stem cells are taken up by the baby with the breast milk and are found in the stomach as well as in the blood, in the thymus, in the liver, in the pancreas, in the spleen and even in the brain.
This discovery is still relatively new and research has only started, but it offers great potential, since the removal of stem cells from breast milk is much easier, especially with this large amount, as removing them from the bone marrow.
9 Breast milk contains bacteria
Breast milk contains countless important bacteria that colonize the digestive tract and are important for the immune system.
There are around 700 living bacterial species, which the child receives during breastfeeding from the mother. These bacteria protect the child from diseases and help with the digestion of food.
Further information can be found here: https://www.still-lexikon.de/
10 Breast milk contains food for bacteria
So that the important intestinal bacteria also have something to eat, the breast milk sends the food immediately afterwards. That’s crazy, isn’t it?
Breast milk contains so-called human milk oligosaccharides, which serve the good gut bacteria as food. These occur only in breast milk. They have a prebiotic effect and prevent adherence of pathogenic bacteria to the intestinal wall.
Breast milk supplies everything that prepares the child’s digestion for life. Therefore, it is no wonder that long and fully breastfed children have an average better immune system. It is well known that the immune system is situated in the digestive tract. Also allergies and other intolerances is thus prevented.
This is one of the reasons why WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months and at the earliest thereafter the introduction of solid foods in parallel with breastfeeding.
11 Breast milk has a healing effect
If you have already breastfed, then you probably know the hint of your midwife to put a little breast milk on the nipples when dealing with sore nipples.
Often it is also recommended to grease babies bum with it or to add a few drops into the bath water.
These tips are not the remnants of old wives’ tales, but now scientifically justifiable advice.
Breast milk acts in part like a highly effective drug, it protects against pathogens, is anti-inflammatory and promotes wound healing.
Breast milk can definitely be described as a miracle cure or an all-rounder, as it is useful in many ailments and all this completely natural, free of charge and without side effects.
12 Breast milk detects diseases
This point impressed me so much that I had to tell it to every person in my environment without being asked 😉
The breast milk of a breastfed child recognizes whether the child is currently suffering from an infection or something similar, adjusts to it and can contribute to healing.
It is believed that when breastfeeding there is an exchange of pathogens between mother and child by the reflux of saliva. In consequence, the breast milk is enriched with appropriate antibodies.
If you have ever doubted whether breast milk really is a miracle cure, then I hope I have finally convinced you.
13 Breast milk lets forget the birth pains
The birth is not only very painful and sometimes traumatic for the mother, but also for the child.
If one still thought in the previous century that babies have no feelings and know no pain, we all know today that they also experience stress and pain during birth.
But just as the mother can no longer remember the birth exactly, the child forgets the painful experiences in the delivery room. How it works? Breast milk makes it possible!
The colostrum contains beta-endorphins, which help to process the stress of childbirth.
We may never know how a baby experiences the birth, but that it may be traumatic in some cases, you can certainly imagine.
All the more reassuring that nature has found a solution for this too.
14 The first vaccination
After birth colostrum is the first milk that is formed in Mama’s breast. It is designed to make life easier for the infant and is therefore enriched with a variety of important nutrients, which earned her the nickname “Liquid Gold”.
Even if you do not want to breastfeed, you should treat your child at least the first drops (thats all at the beginning) of the colostrum.
The colostrum, the first milk, contains mainly vitamins, proteins, sodium, chloride, potassium and a colorful cocktail of antibodies, which acts like a first vaccine on the newborn.
In addition, the first milk is perfectly adapted to the size of the stomach and the digestion of the child and sets them in motion. As a result the meconium can be eliminated as the first bowel movement.
15 Breast milk changes genes
The last point blew me away. I got this point from the book “Intuitives Stillen” and got me first to write this article.
Your baby’s epigenetics is changed by breast milk by turning on human health-promoting genes through breast milk. This was demonstrated in a study that examined stool samples from three-month-old babies (breastfed and non-breastfed).
These genes mainly affect the digestive system and probably also the immune system. The effects of this genetic manipulation are likely to be felt until adulthood.
And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. As far as breast milk and breastfeeding are concerned, research is far from over. We can be curious to see which fascinating results will be published in the next few years.
Book recommendation: Intuitives Stillen (Intuitive breastfeeding)
Among other things, these facts come from the German book “Intuitives Stillen” by Regine Gresens, which I would like to recommend to you at this point, if you understand the German language. But even if you do not speak German, there are many other good books out there about intuitive breastfeeding in your language. It is always worth it to dive deeper into this topic.
Especially if you are pregnant and still have no experience in breastfeeding and perhaps are overwhelmed by the many advices from the media and your environment, I can only recommend this book to you.
The author focuses on a very natural breastfeeding relationship between mother and child from the outset without any frills.
She shows how your body prepares for breastfeeding, how to optimally start breastfeeding, how it works and how to overcome initial difficulties. In addition, you will learn the basics, such as the proper breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public and how you can trust your feelings.
From my own experience of breastfeeding, which was very relaxed and still is (for which I am very grateful!), I can only confirm the many points from the book.
A very nice guide, which you always like to pick up. The over 100 five star reviews on Amazon speak for themselves :). Here is a link to the book on Amazon.
I highly recommend you the website and the blog of the author with many tips around the topic of breastfeeding: www.stillkinder.de.
Drink more milk!
No, absolutely nonsense, on the contrary, that’s not my conclusion at all 🙂 I am absolutely no proponent of milk, which comes from a mammal other than the human.
Sure, I could also write: Breastfeed more! That’s more the direction in which I would like to direct you. Because after all the facts that you have just read, there is probably no equivalent alternative to breast milk.
But since the world is not rosy and not everyone can breastfeed, may or will, I hope that with this article I can at least catch the undecided and convince them of the importance of breastfeeding and human breast milk.
Breast milk is no longer necessarily associated with breastfeeding in our time. If you do not want to breastfeed, your second choice should be pumping, if that is possible.
Another alternative that is no longer so widespread here in Germany is nurse’s milk. Especially if you can not breastfeed for medical reasons, this is the only way for some mothers to give their baby so important food.
In other countries, it is not uncommon to get the breast milk of other breastfeeding mothers and feed their own child. In addition to official “milk banks”, there are also private providers via the Internet. Here is an interesting German article on this not uncontested business model: “Das Geschäft mit der Muttermilch”.
In any case, I hope that I could give you some new information and food for thought.
If you liked the article, please leave me a comment. I would like to hear your breastfeeding history or other facts and suggestions that are missing here!
Thank you for reading!