Do you know much about breastmilk?
I didn’t – not before I became pregnant with my first baby. That was when I started to read up on breastmilk and breastfeeding.
And after he was born I’m sure I googled the topic plenty of times.
But even then I didn’t know much about how breastmilk was made and what exactly it was composed of. I was too busy searching for things like ‘how to soothe sore nipples’ and ‘how long should newborns breastfeed for?’.
The thing is that breasts are quite an amazing organ– I wonder why we didn’t learn more about them in science class.
For example – did you know that you have on average 9 main milk ducts that take breastmilk from where it is stored in your breasts straight to your baby? I’m pretty sure if you’d asked me, pre-kids, I would have thought there was just one opening for the milk to come out!
Here are some more interesting things about breastmilk …
- Breastmilk is made and stored in clusters of small grape-like sacs in your breast. These are called alveoli and they develop during your pregnancy.
- Alveoli is surrounded by tiny muscles that help push the milk out through small canals called ductules and into the main milk ducts (then into your baby!)
- Before your milk comes in your breasts will produce colostrum. Colostrum is baby’s first food – it is thicker, yellower and stickier than breastmilk. Your baby won’t drink a large volume of colostrum but it is jam-packed full of ingredients – containing double the amount of protein than your later milk. These proteins protect your baby from diseases from the beginning.
- Breastmilk is a living substance that changes to meet the needs of your growing baby.
- Breastmilk contains live cells that can be directed to become other body cell types (such as liver, fat, brain and bone cells) and can act as a type of ‘internal repair system’!
- The food you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding ‘flavour’ your amniotic fluid and breastmilk – this may ‘program’ later food preferences in your child!
- There are literally thousands of ingredients in breastmilk. Proteins, fats, lactose, vitamins, iron, minerals, waters and enzymes.
- Breastmilk contains more than 130 prebiotics – which help protect the gut from different types of microbes. No other species has so many – except elephants!
- Breastmilk is about 4 per cent fat. The milk from seals and whales is about 50 per cent fat!
- The fats in breastmilk are antibacterial.
- Your body produces the right nutrients in the right amount and the right volume of milk to match your baby’s needs.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! As you can see breastmilk is quite complex. There’s more information in the infographic below or you can download the What Makes Breastmilk So Unique PDF?
This blog post is sponsored by Medela.
NOTE: This information is not intended to replace actual medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your baby contact your health care provider.