It’s liquid gold carrying the building blocks of good health.
You can read exactly what ingredients are found in formula or packaged baby food anytime you’re curious, but have you ever wondered what is floating around in the meals produced by your very own body? Let’s have a look!
Get The Party Started
There are three stages of breastfeeding (lactation) that begin during pregnancy and continue for as long as you and your baby require it.
Stage 1: Colostrum production begins anywhere during the second or third trimester and can be expressed (very beneficial for babies of diabetic mothers) prior to birthing and stored. Colostrum contains high amounts of protein, and oodles of immunising factors for your baby and this feeding continues until, usually around day 4-7, when the transitional milk arrives.
Stage 2: Transitional Milk is produced from around day 8 to day 20 and it’s when lactation really gets into the swing of things and establishes itself.
Stage 3: Mature Milk is when you bring on the good stuff that lays down the soft squishy layers of chubba on your bubba. Some babes get rounder than others as the calorie/kilojoule content of each feed differs depending on the amount of fat the milk contains, which in turn depends on how long your baby feeds for (don’t think too much into that, just feed on demand for as long as bub wants) each time.
So, as we know, booby juice is packed full of, well, everything that babies need. It’s unique in that it cannot be replicated and the different components that make up this nectar of the babies are pretty amazing.
The foremilk is the watery, thirst quenching first part of a breastfeed can increase in supply to meet your babies thirst requirements. The hindmilk is the fattier last part of a breastfeed can increase in fatty content depending on your babies hunger status. It’s very clever stuff.
As milk from each mum differs depending on the time of day and on her baby’s feeding times and length of feeds, the measurement of nutritional content is taken on an average of nutritional contents in mature milk.
Each breastfeed contains:
Free water (hello hydration!), Proteins, Amino Acids, DNA, Peptides, Fats (Essential fatty acids and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids), Carbohydrates (the main carbohydrate of human milk is lactose), Sodium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamins A, C and D.
Must not forget the almighty immune-related components and growth factors:
Secretory IgA – The predominant immunoglobulin in breast milk, which plays a critical role in the immune function in the mucous membranes.
Bioactive cytokines – Including transforming growth factor-b (plays a crucial role in tissue regeneration, cell differentiation, regulation of the immune system and embryonic development) 1 and 2 and interleukin-10 (regulates inflammatory response and antibody production) Cytokines, basically, affect the behaviour of other cells.
As well as…
Leukocytes (protective white blood cells), oligosaccharides (which reduces the attachment of bacteria in the throat, oesophagus, small intestine and urinary tract), lysozyme (bacteria attackers), lactoferrin (major bacteria fighter), adiponectin (a hormone that modulates glucose regulation), interferon-g (an immune stimulant), epidermal growth factor (cell growth stimulant) and insulin-like growth factor (a hormone required for achieving maximum growth)-1.
Oh my goodness! Talk about a health shake!
What’s your flavour?
Just as different foods eaten by a hungry mummy may cause a bit of gas in a baby, they can also change the flavour of your milk, which may cause a disruption in feeding. Or it may not bother your baby one little bit. My children apparently enjoy garlic-laced breast milk! Who knew?
Other causes of flavour change may include medications (antibiotics, every time), mastitis (gets a bit salty), lots of exercise (lactic acid build-up), using rubs or oils on your breasts (ditch it near feeding times unless it’s ointment for cracked nipples and it can’t be avoided) or the easy weaner’s delight: falling pregnant, which changes your milk in readiness of a new baby.
I was hoping for an easy wean of our first-born when we fell pregnant with baby number two…yeah right, no dice.
Top Shelf Hankering?
One very commonly asked question is ‘Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?’ and the obvious answer is yes, of course you can if that is your choice, especially if you have mastered one-handed breastfeeding. The more specific question that we should be asking is ‘How much alcohol is safe to drink while I’m breastfeeding?’.
Having an alcoholic drink is a personal choice and that doesn’t change when you become a breastfeeding mother, what does change is the amount and frequency at which you can imbibe that glass of sanity-saving deliciousness.
You have about 30 minutes after you start drinking for alcohol to be in your bloodstream and therefore, your breast milk. That’s why midwives recommend that you have your tipple when your baby starts their breastfeed. Your milk is clear of alcohol and you can both relax and have a drink! Once bub has finished his or her feed, remember that the concentration of alcohol in your blood is the concentration of alcohol in your milk.
One standard drink takes two hours to leave your bloodstream and therefore, your milk. Two standard drinks take four hours and so on. Pumping breast milk and discarding it does not make the next lot of milk free of alcohol, only passing of time can do that. If you do express milk whilst your drinking to relieve build-up, ditch the milk, it will always have an alcohol content.
So what about when you have an extra drink and your baby needs an unexpected (as they do) feed and you don’t have any expressed milk on hand? The Australian Breastfeeding Association (and common sense) recommends that you do not make your baby wait and stay hungry or thirsty (or try to give formula) but rather just give them a breastfeed.
What’s In The Bag?
You may have seen on the internet, a post from Mallory Smothers, documenting the dramatic change in her breast milk when her bubba became unwell with a cold.
So yall.. This is just cuckoo awesome– I read an article from a medical journal not too long ago about how Mom’s milk changes to tailor baby’s needs in more ways than just caloric intake.. So this doctor discusses that when a baby nurses, it creates a vacuum in which the infant’s saliva sneaks into the mother’s nipple. There, it is believed that mammary gland receptors interpret the “baby spit backwash” for bacteria and viruses and, if they detect something amiss (i.e., the baby is sick or fighting off an infection), Mom’s body will actually change the milk’s immunological composition, tailoring it to the baby’s particular pathogens by producing customized antibodies. (Science backs this up. A 2013 Clinical and Translational Immunology study found that when a baby is ill, the numbers of leukocytes in its mother’s breast milk spike.) So I filed that away in the back of my mind until I was packing frozen milk into the big deep freeze today.
I pumped the milk on the left Thursday night before we laid down for bed. I nurse Baby every 2 hours or so overnight and don’t pump until we get up for the day. I noticed in the wee hours of Friday morning, 3 AM or so– she was congested, irritable, and sneezing ALOT. Probably a cold, right?
When we got up Friday morning, I pumped, just as we always do. What I pumped is on the right side of the photo.
I didn’t notice a difference until today but look at how much more the milk I produced Friday resembles colostrum (The super milk full of antibodies and leukocytes you make during the first few days after birth) and this comes after nursing the baby with a cold all night long…
Pretty awesome huh?! The human body never ceases to amaze me.
She may not be the first person to discover this medical marvel that is the process of breast milk changing and adapting to a baby’s needs, doubling as food and medicine, but she certainly has taken the information to the masses. Well done Mallory!
Check The Vintage
There are certainly a few rules to follow when storing your hard-earned expresso grande.
Newly expressed breast milk:
- Always write the date of expressing on the bag, good luck remembering that!
- Can be stored at room temp (under 26 degrees) for 6-8 hours for easy away-from-mum feeds
- Keep in the back of the fridge (in a clean, sealed container or bag) for max 72 hours
- Stash away in the freezer compartment for 2 weeks, the separate freezer section for 3 months or the deep freeze for 6-12 months
- Freshly expressed breast milk should be cooled in the fridge before being added to other chilled or frozen expressed breast milk.
Frozen breast milk thawed out in fridge but not warmed:
- Stored at room temp (under 26 degrees) for no more than 4 hours, ideally the next feed
- Can be put back in the back of the fridge for 24 hours
- Do not refreeze
Frozen breast milk thawed out at room temperature or warmer:
- Use for feeding asap
- Keep in fridge for no more than four hours
- Do not refreeze
Once your baby has started drinking expressed milk, any unfinished portion should be discarded at the end of the feed.