You may be reading this with your little one snuggled against your chest after filling up an a yummy breastfeed and thinking WOW, I never knew that about breastmilk. Parents will hear about the benefits of breastfeeding but actually not realise just how incredible our breastmilk truly is. A living, ever-changing liquid that has the ability to adapt to the individual needs of your infant is truly astonishing.
Let’s look at just some of the ways our breastmilk can adapt-
Breastmilk changes as our baby grows.
From the moment our babies are born our breastmilk is adapting to our baby’s needs at that particular time. Depending on gestation born, our breastmilk is individualized to meet the nutritional needs of the baby at that moment. As our baby grows , our breastmilk changes with them- Pretty amazing !!
Our First milk- Colostrum
Many parents don’t realise that colostrum is the first milk they produce immediately after birth. It is an amazing and potent liquid- the powerhouse of nutrition, you may say! Often referred to as ‘liquid Gold’ by many in the lactation world due to its rich yellow colour and the amazing benefits it has to offer. It’s in small quantities to allow your baby to learn to suck, swallow and breath. It may be in small volumes but it is perfect for their tiny tummies!. Your baby’s stomach is small so 5-7.5ml is all that’s needed on day 1 per feed , that’s the equivalent of 1-2 teaspoons. It is nutrient dense, rich in protein, vitamins and antibodies which is perfect for their immature digestive system whilst also giving them a jump start on their immune system.
Your transitional milk starts transitioning in from day 3 right up until 2 weeks.
You may notice your breasts are fuller particularly around day 3-5, your breastmilk is changing in colour, thinning out and you are hearing lots more audible swallows from baby-Yeh!!
Your mature milk transitions in by around 2 weeks but it’s can take up until around a month until its considered fully mature. Mature milk is lower in protein but higher in fat and carbohydrates. It also contains about 90% water to meet babies fluid needs. Then, once it has regulated to baby’s demand, your breasts may not feel as full. Your mature milk still has all the nutritional requirements that your baby needs to grow and thrive and will continue to change according to your baby’s needs. If exposed to harmful viruses and bacterial infections- then breastmilk is full of antibodies to protect our little ones.
Breastmilk changes depending on the environment
You and your baby are constantly exposed to viruses and bacteria that are circulating in the environment. Your body will produces antibodies depending on what it’s exposed to and delivers it to your baby through your milk. Breastmilk also contains immunities that your body has spent your whole life developing. So your baby can have an immune system nearly sturdy as you- Crazy huh!! Best thing you can do for your baby when either of you is sick, is to keep feeding through it if possible. The antibodies will pass through your breastmilk to fight whatever sickness is around at that time.
Research shows that breastmilk can protect against a host of common childhood illness along with obesity, diabetes and many more.
Another amazing discovery has led Researchers to believe that if a child or Mom is actively unwell, then signals can be sent through the baby’s saliva while latched at the breast and alter the composition of Moms breastmilk to meet the needs of the baby at that time…WOW!
Breastmilk changes depending on the time of the day
Breastmilk is a dynamic and constantly changing liquid. This is very evident when it comes to the energetic milk we produce in the morning as opposed to the sleep inducing milk produced in the evenings.
The hormone Cortisol which promotes alertness can be up to 3 times higher in the morning – think of it like an energy drink, whereas milk produced at night contains higher concentrations of Melatonin-your very own sleeping potion!
Did you know that a Breastfeeding moms actually gets up to 45mins more sleep in the first few months post-partum? A win for all our hard work.
Babies are born with no established circadian rhythm and this takes up to 3-4 months to develop. However, thanks to the amazing sleep inducing hormone- ‘Melatonin’, which is in abundance in our night-time milk. Melatonin helps babies develop their own circadian rhythm resulting in them eventually sleeping longer stretches at night.
Breastmilk changes in Colour
So what colour is considered normal when we chat about breastmilk?
Many think its white or bluish/white but there’s no right or wrong here. As breastmilk is constantly changing so too may the colour. The type of milk you are producing at the time will effect the shade.
Yellow milk – Colostrum is a yellow, thick sticky liquid. Also, if you are consuming a lot of foods with beta carotene such as carrots and sweet potatoes this can alter the shade.
White/bluish in colour- often referred to as the mature milk but again this may change depending on what a mother eats. Milk at the start of a feed- also known as foremilk, may be thinner with a bluish tinge as there is less fat in comparison to the hindmilk, milk at the end of a feed, making it whiter.
Green milk- if mom is consuming lots dark green vegetables like kale and spinach
Orange or pink milk- sometimes referred to as ‘Strawberry Milk’ occurs when blood is present in it. This may be present for several reason- nipple trauma, infection, rusty pipe syndrome.
Rusty Pipe Syndrome is harmless and generally clears itself in a few days, but it can lead to red tinged milk. This is due to old blood which was left inside the milk ducts after breast changes during pregnancy. If this does not subside or you have any other symptoms- you should see a Healthcare Provider.
Breastmilk may changes in flavour
Much like wine has subtle flavour’s and aromas so too can our breastmilk depending on what a mother has eaten. It is thought that the early exposure to a variety of tastes might lead to a less fussy eater and a child that will accept different flavour’s during the weaning onto solid phase later on.
Whether you feed for just one feed or for a year you have given your infant the best possible start in life. Remember, the benefits don’t stop after the age of one, so as long as its working for both of you, then keep on going.