Decoding your breast milk

Registered midwife Pippa Hime explains how your breast milk changes when feeding your baby.


Growing a baby for nine months is a miracle, but what is also amazing is that a woman’s body can then, after birth, meet the exact nutritional needs to sustain the growth of the baby for the first six months of life. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and then continued feeding for up to two years in conjunction with solids. Every drop of breast milk your baby can get will help him to grow and develop a healthy immune system.

ALSO SEE: Benefits of breast milk

Let’s take a look at how your milk varies over the days, weeks and months from your baby’s birth:

The first milk produced directly after birth is a rich, creamy milk called colostrum. This is your baby’s’ first taste of “liquid gold”. It is produced in small quantities but is high in calories. A newborn’s stomach can hold 5-7ml of milk at a feed, and your colostrum meets your baby’s exact demands. It has a healthy dose of antibodies to boost the development of your baby’s immune system. It also provides the digestive tract with probiotics.

ALSO SEE: The first 3 days of breastfeeding – what you need to know

As your baby’s stomach begins to expand, the volume of your milk increases and the colostrum changes to “milk”. Breastfeeding works to a supply and demand system – the more you feed, the more milk you make.

Your breast milk also varies throughout a 24-hour period. First thing in the morning your milk is more plentiful and thirst-quenching, as your baby would have most likely fed less during the night. In the late afternoon and early evening, your milk is richer and creamier, keeping your baby fuller for longer.

As your baby grows, the milk composition of carbohydrates, fats and proteins changes. It has been suggested that during periods of physical development, breast milk is higher in carbohydrates for energy, and with cognitive milestone periods, it is higher in protein. The fat percentage in the milk varies from feed to feed. Even during a feed, the fat content may be higher towards the end.

The content of the milk also varies according to your diet. A mom with a well-balanced diet will produce rich, creamy milk. Babies that are breastfed often take to solids easier, as they are used to a variety of flavours found in breast milk.

ALSO SEE: Your breastfeeding nutrition guide



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