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Breastmilk Composition

03/08/2021 Pediatrics

Returning to what was discussed in another article, breast milk is a living fluid, the result of millions of years of evolution, and designed by your body to be the perfectly tailored food for your baby.

Breast milk is not the same throughout the time you breastfeed, its composition changes and adapts to your baby's needs, there are four different types of milk:

  1. Pre-Colostrum

It begins to generate during the last trimester of pregnancy in preparation for your baby's birth. It contains immunoglobulins, lactose, and sodium, among other things.


  1. Colostrum


It is produced from day 1 of your baby's birth until four days later, it is not made in large quantities, but it usually has a high concentration and density to meet the baby's requirements.


Concerning mature milk, it has a lower energy content but a higher content of proteins, minerals, and immunoglobulins, to nourish and protect the newborn baby, favoring the development of its immune system.


It is produced in tiny quantities, sometimes only drops; this is precisely designed so that the kidneys of the baby are not overloaded with a large amount of fluid, in addition to favoring the expulsion of meconium (the first feces of the baby made from all the amniotic fluid swallow during pregnancy, and which is characterized by being dark-green in color)


It is easily digestible milk for an immature digestive system and promotes the colonization of the intestine with lactobacilli.


  1. Transition Milk

It occurs from 4 to 15 days after the baby is born, noticing an increase in volume on day five as colostrum production ends. Production increases until you produce around 700ml per day.


  1. Mature Milk


The baby should continue to drink milk on demand from birth, and eventually, your milk will reach its maturity.  You will produce a volume of 700-900 ml per day.


Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are easily digested and absorbed so that the use of nutrients is ensured to form a robust immune system, guaranteeing the child's health.


During the breastfeeding period, the milk will vary its nutritional composition to provide what the baby/child requires depending on what they are going through (for example, if the baby has an infection, it is very common for breast milk to adapt its composition to support the child's system to fight said infection).


In any of its four stages, breastmilk has the following attributes:

• Antibodies against diseases.

• Hormones that regulate appetite, sleep patterns and establish emotional bonds.

• Stem cells that help the development and healing of organs.

• Beneficial bacteria for the digestive system.

• Prebiotics for small bowel operation.

• Fatty acids for brain, nervous system, and eye development.


Human milk has also proven to support certain disorders and conditions, such as acute diarrhea or dehydration. In addition, due to the bond that it forges with the mother, breastfeeding provides great emotional support in stressful situations, such as injections, childhood ailments, and more. Due to the great benefits of its adaptable composition, breastmilk is truly medicinal. 


WHO and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding be established exclusively for the first six months of life and continue with it until at least the first two years of life.


Should you avoid any foods during lactation?

This question is one of the most common while breastfeeding; there are many misconceptions that need to be addressed. 


You should always clarify any doubts that you may have about lactation with a competent professional who is pro-lactation. This is relevant since, unfortunately, there are still specialists who are not in the loop on the great benefits that breastfeeding represents, and they perpetuate certain myths already discarded with new information.


There is no prohibited food for a breastfeeding mother; the food we consume is processed in our system before passing into milk, except in certain common-sense cases, such as alcoholic beverages. In this sense, it is advisable to apply "trial and error" where if you notice that your baby is uncomfortable (vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, skin rash,  milk rejection), identify the food and avoid it if necessary. 


It's also important to know that no special foods are required during lactation, such as the recommendation to consume beer to increase milk production. It is advisable to maintain a healthy and varied diet, without excesses, and limiting junk food, as it should be at any time in our lives. What is recommended is that while breastfeeding, try to take an iodine supplement.

To know if your consumptions are compatible with the baby without risk, we recommend you visit this page: http://www.e-lactancia.org/


Should I feed my baby water?

Another prevalent topic during the early breastfeeding period is giving water to the baby. The reasons for giving water are varied, thinking that it eliminates thirst, that water is life, relieves pain, prevents colds, and more. Water, nevertheless, is not necessary.


But "EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING" during the first six months of life has been established by the WHO and UNICEF based on the resulting scientific evidence for child survival, growth, and development.


With all its components described above, breast milk provides babies with energy and nutrients, and the hydration they require; in reality, breast milk is 88% water. Even if you live in a hot place, remember that the composition of the milk is adapted according to the needs of your baby.


Offering water to a baby under six months of age can cause significant health problems because filling their tummy with water will only cover hydration requirements but not nutrition. In addition, the water may contain certain pathogens that an immature digestive system may not have the required defense measures. Babies should not be given any other liquids, such as teas, sugar water, infusions, or drinks. This is very dangerous and could even result in death.

Remember always to seek the advice of your pediatrician.

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