Ingredients of breast milk: everything a baby needs

Ingredients of breast milk: everything a baby needs 0 5


Ingredients of breast milk: everything a baby needs

All mothers know that it is useful to breastfeed a child. But it is not always possible to answer why it is so necessary for a child. What is so valuable is contained in colostrum and breast milk, which the baby can not get when feeding the milk formula?

Larisa Shumina Pediatrician, Child's home №12, Moscow

Breast milk best suits the needs of the baby in nutrients - proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and trace elements. And it's not just about the amount of useful substances in it, but also about how they fit together. The composition of breast milk adapts to the individual characteristics of each child, it varies with the growth of the baby and changes in his needs, and also depends on the time of day and the state of the crumbs. So, at the end of pregnancy or in the first 3-4 days after delivery, colostrum appears, then it is replaced by milk, which is called transitional, and from the 2-3 rd week after birth the transitional milk turns into mature milk. What are they different from each other? Let's understand.

What is colostrum?

So, the first food that a baby should receive after birth is colostrum. It is necessary for a smooth transition from feeding through the umbilical cord to breast-feeding. The composition of the colostrum is unique and ideal for a newborn baby and is easy to digest. It is a thick, sticky liquid of a yellowish color. It is allocated very little - about 10 to 100 ml (an average of 30 ml) per day. A child for one feeding sucks out about 5-10 ml of colostrum. Many mothers are worried that, eating so little, the baby will remain hungry. Often they begin to supplement the baby with a milk formula or to drink water without a doctor's recommendation. This can not be done! 

First, a healthy child is born with a water supply, protecting his body from dehydration until milk comes. 

Secondly, if a crumb drinks a liquid or a mixture, it creates a feeling of satiety in the stomach, and he begins to suck less and less. This leads to insufficient intake of beneficial colostrum and influences the further production of milk. After all, in order to have a lot of milk, the breast needs frequent regular stimulation, which is provided by the sucking movements of the baby. This is the signal for the mother's brain to increase the production of prolactin and oxytocin hormones, which regulate the production and excretion of milk. 

And thirdly, and most importantly, nature has provided just such a volume of colostrum for crumbs, which is explained by its physiological characteristics. The kidneys and intestines of the infant are not yet ready for a large volume of fluid, so colostrum contains little water, which protects these organs from excessive load. The volume of the newborn's stomach is very small, so the baby can eat only 5-10 ml for one feeding. But a small amount of colostrum, which sucks the baby, is compensated by its increased nutritional and energy value. The amount of nutrients necessary for a baby is provided mainly by a high protein content: colostrum contains 3-5 times more protein than in mature milk. It is easily digestible, does not require digestion of a large number of digestive juices and does not cause stress in the work of the newborn's gastrointestinal tract. It should also be noted that the colostrum is 2 times higher than the mature milk by the content of essential amino acids.

But fat and carbohydrates (milk sugar - lactose) in colostrum contains less than in mature milk. And this is justified. After all, this reduces the load on the still immature enzyme system of the baby. 

High concentration of special substances of phosphatides in colostrum promotes bile secretion, uniform evacuation of fat from the stomach and its more active absorption in the upper parts of the small intestine. In colostrum there are also enzymes and hormones that activate the digestive and metabolic processes in infants.

In addition, colostrum has a high content of vitamin A, E, B12, ascorbic acid, carotene and retinol, which contribute to the development of the nervous system, muscle tissue and retina of the eye crumbs. Thus, if a newborn baby is applied to the breast at the first request, the colostrum fully meets its nutritional needs. 

Ingredients of breast milk: transitional milk

From the 4th-5th day after the birth, transitional milk begins to be produced. At first it retains a yellowish color (like colostrum), and many colostrum components are preserved in it. In the future, milk becomes white, the amount of protein in its composition decreases and the content of fat and carbohydrates increases. The breast increases in size, becomes dense, hot, often painful. To facilitate this process, the mother should try to put the baby to the breast as often as possible, without limiting the feeding in time, so that it empties it well.

When does ripe milk come?

From the 2-3 rd week after delivery, the transitional milk turns into a mature one. In it, the "front" and "back" portions are conventionally allocated. 

The baby receives the "front" milk at the beginning of the feeding. It contains a lot of liquid, sugar (lactose) and protein, has a bluish color and is produced in a larger amount. 

"Back" comes to the child at the end of feeding, has a rich white color due to the content of a large amount of fat, whose concentration is 4-5 times higher than in the "front".

In breast milk, there are all necessary nutrients, vitamins and trace elements, and their content fully corresponds to its needs.

Ingredients of breast milk


Milk is approximately 87% water, so a child who is breastfed should not drink water.


В составе зрелого молока примерно 1% белка. Proteins грудного молока по качественному составу схожи с белками сыворотки крови (альбуминами и глобулинами), поэтому легко усваиваются детским организмом. С увеличением возраста ребенка содержание белка в грудном молоке уменьшается. Объясняется это тем, что малыш уже начинает получать продукты прикорма, в которых тоже содержится белок. Избыточное его поступление вызывает повышенную нагрузку на почки и печень.

The value of proteins in the composition of breast milk is determined by the presence in them of essential amino acids, which are not themselves synthesized in the baby's body. The most important of these are cysteine, methionine and taurine. Cysteine ​​plays an important role in the formation of skin tissues, methionine is involved in the processing of fats and the synthesis of nucleic acids, taurine is necessary for the maturation and development of the nervous system and the retina of the eye. Most of the proteins of women's milk form the protective forces of the body, and thus they help the kid to fight infections.

Immunity of the baby of the first months of life is mainly provided by antibodies and special protection factors contained in the milk of the mother, which are proteins (lactoferrin, immunoglobulins and lysozyme). Their content in mature milk is less than in colostrum, but they still perform their protective function. Lactoferrin is involved in the binding and transport of iron in the body, in protection from infections, and also has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating activity. In addition, it is a strong activator of growth of crumbs.


Carbohydrates в составе зрелого молока составляют около 7%,  и основным из них является лактоза (молочный сахар). Большое количество лактозы в грудном молоке стимулирует рост нормальной микрофлоры кишечника, подавляя тем самым размножение болезнетворных микробов и предохраняя малыша от кишечных инфекций. Кроме того, лактоза способствует усваиванию кальция и железа. Женское молоко содержит не только саму лактозу, но и специальный фермент для ее расщепления – лактазу. Фермент находится в основном в «задней» порции молока, поэтому его могут получить только те детки, которые достаточно долго находятся у груди. Если мама раньше времени прерывает кормление и малыш не получает «заднего» молока, богатого ферментом лактазой, то нерасщепленная лактоза из «передней» порции молока попадает в толстый кишечник, где вызывает брожение, газообразование, у малыша начинает болеть живот, а стул становится жидким и пенистым.


In mature milk is up to 4.5% fat. Mechanisms for its absorption in infants are still immature, so the composition of breast milk includes an enzyme called lipase, which breaks down fat. Polyunsaturated fatty acids - omega-3 and omega-6, which are part of breast milk - are in an optimal ratio of 5: 1 and are necessary for the proper formation of the nervous system and the intelligence of crumbs.

At the expense of fats, the need for a baby in energy is ensured. The content of fat in milk decreases as the child grows. After 6 months, the growth rate and weight gain in the baby are reduced, and it spends less energy (calories) for these processes.

Vitamins and trace elements 

The structure of breast milk includes microelements necessary for the development of the baby - calcium, potassium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, copper, as well as vitamins A, E, C, D. 

In mature milk, in comparison with colostrum, the concentration of certain vitamins decreases, but the number of other important substances increases. For example, folic acid, which promotes the absorption of iron, and nicotinic acid, which helps the work of the stomach and improves blood circulation.

Mineral substances are found in breast milk in such proportions that promote their better absorption and do not exert additional burden on the kidneys and kidneys of the baby. For example, calcium is absorbed well because of the optimal ratio with phosphorus (2: 1), and iron is absorbed by 50% (whereas from cow's milk only 5-10%).

Breastmilk contains more than 15 types of hormones and a variety of growth factors that affect the growth and proper development of the child. It is also important that women's milk is completely devoid of allergenic properties. When breastfeeding, the child develops a gradual addiction to the products that his mother uses, which reduces the risk of developing food allergies in the future, when he himself will use them.

Breastfeeding is called a natural diet, and indeed, breast milk is the best that nature has laid down and what mother can offer her baby.

Properties of breast milk

In addition to the nutritional function, colostrum has a number of other valuable properties:

  • It has a soft, laxative effect, which is due to the increased content of magnesium in it. This contributes to timely cleansing of the baby's intestines from meconium (original feces), withdrawal from the body together with fecal bilirubin, which in turn reduces the intensity and duration of physiological jaundice of newborns that develops in most babies.
  • Colostrum provides immune protection to the baby, as it contains many immunoglobulins. The highest concentrations of these nutrients are found in the colostrum immediately after the birth of the baby, so it is very important to put the baby to the chest within 30 minutes after it is born.
  • Immunoglobulins activate white blood cells (leukocytes) that cover the immature surface of the intestine, protecting it from harmful microbes. That is why colostrum is often called the first vaccination of a child. 
  • Colostrum is rich in growth factors that stimulate the development of the immature gastrointestinal tract of a child, preparing it for absorption and absorption of milk, preventing the development of allergies. 
  • The neuro-growth factor contained in the colostrum contributes to the development of the nervous system.

Why is breast milk an ideal meal for a child?

Breast milk is the ideal food for a baby, because it meets the following requirements: 

  • is a balanced and easily assimilated food; 
  • corresponds to the individual needs of each particular baby;
  • provides optimal physical and neuromuscular development of the child; 
  • protects the infant from various pathogens; 
  • does not cause allergies; 
  • promotes the development of normal intestinal microflora; 
  • contains a number of important biologically active substances, such as enzymes, hormones, immunoglobulins; 
  • always has the optimum temperature for the child;
  • forms a close trusting relationship between mother and baby.