Breast milk: A superfood with multiple benefits
Humans, like all mammals, have attained breast milk thanks to the invaluable wisdom of evolution. It is the single best food for our new-borns. The benefits of mother’s milk are innumerable
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that new-borns be exclusively breastfed during their first 6 months, yet only 43% of babies are fed this way.
Why is breast milk the perfect nutrition for babies?
Breast milk is the most suitable food for new-borns from the first day.
Colostrum (the first form of milk produced immediately following birth to about the fourth day) is rich in protein and immunoglobulin, compounds that offer a great defence against infections. It also has lymphocytes, neutrophils and leukocytes that protect the new-born baby from bacteria and viruses.
Another of Colostrum’s properties lies in its ability to help expel meconium (black stool) from an infants’ digestive system, and facilitate the colonization of Lactobacillus (friendly bacteria) in the digestive tract.
Transitional milk is produced from the fourth to the fifteenth day after a baby is born, and is a mixture of colostrum and mature breast milk. This liquid provides more calories for the baby, so it is very beneficial for its growth. It also contains more water-soluble vitamins, lactose and fats than colostrum alone.
Mature milk usually appears between ten and fifteen days after birth. This milk is so extraordinarily rich in nutrients that it provides an ideal diet until six months of age.
Its composition is based on water (almost 90%), minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. As if this were not enough, it also provides the child with trace elements and enzymes that will take care of all aspects of their health.
Benefits and advantages of breast milk
- Needs no preparation and is ready at the ideal temperature.
- Comes completely sterile.
- Strengthens the maternal-filial bond.
- It is economical.
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers.
- Stimulates mothers’ loss of pregnancy gained weight.
- Reduces mortality risk from childhood diseases such as meningitis, diarrhea or pneumonia.
- Stimulates the cognitive and sensory development of the new-born.
When is breastfeeding not recommended?
Only three situations exit under which it is not recommended that a mother breastfeed her baby:
- If the baby suffers from galactosaemia, a rare metabolic disorder that affects the ability to metabolise galactose sugar.
- If the mother has HIV (AIDS), as this disease can be transmitted through fluids.
- If the mother is infected with human T-cell leukaemia virus, which is another very rare retrovirus that can be transmitted to the baby through fluids.
How long should mothers breastfeed?
Medical recommendations state that babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old, after which their diet can be gradually supplemented with other foods.
Doctors do not set an upper age limit for breastfeeding, and it may be the child themselves who will wish to stop.
Some research suggests that the advantages of breast milk are so great that they may last through adulthood.
Breast milk is not just immensely nutritional, but it is also the best care for a baby’s immune system.