Breast Milk Nutrition Part 1

You already know breast milk is the most nutritious food on the planet for your baby. That’s why you pour so much of your heart and soul into breastfeeding. But do you know exactly what is in your breast milk? We’re breaking down breast milk nutrition in honor of National Nutrition Month.

Breast milk contains over 200 powerful elements that help your baby thrive. And it’s not just the individual ingredients but rather then combination of them that makes breast milk such an extraordinary superfood. Plus, your breast milk is constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby so you’re always providing what your baby needs when she needs it.

Breast Milk Nutrition Part 1Because your breast milk evolves, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact quantity of certain nutrients. Not only will your milk evolve as your baby grows and ages, your breast milk also changes based on the time of day, frequency of feedings, duration of feedings and your diet. However, there are some constants when it comes to breast milk.

All mature breast milk (milk produced 21 days after initiating lactation) contains water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, hormones antibodies and white cells. Breast milk is made of just over 88% water. Proteins make up 1% of breast milk, fats are just under 4%, carbohydrates are around 7% and everything else is less than 1%. If that less than 1% seems insignificant, think again. That’s a category with a ton of really important nutrients for your baby. In general, 100 mL (approximately 3.5 oz) of breast milk contains 70 calories.

Colostrum, the early seedy substance that feeds your baby in the first few days of life, differs in composition to meet the immediate needs of your newborn baby. Colostrum is more potent in protein but contains less fat and calories. This is why your newborn is hungry often, in addition to her small stomach. Colostrum also has more beta-carotene, Vitamin E and zinc than mature breast milk.

From a biological and evolutionary perspective, breast milk nutrition and composition makes a lot of sense. Human babies develop slowly, which is why breast milk protein is low. We also keep our babies with us rather than leaving them for long periods of time to say, hunt for food, so they need less fat in their diets because they are fed frequently.

Stick around: later this week we’re breaking down breast milk nutrition further and taking a deep dive into each nutritious category.

Sources: Parenting Science, Very Well, Baby Center, American Pregnancy and Rehydrate