Many of you have heard breast milk referred to as “liquid gold”. You may be wondering hmmm…why is it called that? It’s just milk, right? Think again. Key nutrients are provided for your baby through breast milk. Breastfeeding your baby also has many health benefits for them and even you.
Stages of Breast Milk
Breast milk has three different stages. Colostrum is the first stage. In fact, at 16-22 weeks pregnant, a women starts producing this milk. How amazing is that! It is thick and yellowish, white in color. Colostrum is packed with antibodies and nutrients that contain fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and proteins. The antibodies, aka immunoglobulins, boosts the immunity by helping it fight off bacteria and diseases that can cause issues in the gut and respiratory system. Your body produces the colostrum for only a few days, typically 2-4, after birth. The transitional milk is the second stage. At this point, your milk is high in lactose, fat, and water-soluble vitamins. It is higher in calories than the colostrum. This stage lasts for up to two weeks. The third stage is mature milk. Your baby will feed on this milk the remainder of your breastfeeding journey. It is made of 90% water and 10% of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Benefits of Breast Milk
Not only does breast milk contain the perfect nutrition for you baby, but it also has many health benefits. Breast milk reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease, allergy disorders, respiratory infections and middle ear infections. Whew, that’s a long list of goodness, and guess what, it keeps going! Breastfed children are also less likely to be obese and they may have a higher IQ. There are still studies to be done on just how good breast milk is.
We know what breastfeeding can do for your baby, so lets discuss what it does for mothers. At the end of pregnancy, our uterus is quite larger than it was before we conceived our sweet bundles of joy, and we need to get it back to the size it was before. Nursing actually helps the uterus contract back to its normal size quicker than it would if we were not nursing. And for those of us who want our bodies back to how it was, about 20 calories per ounce of milk are burned while nursing! That is a lot of calories when added up. Breastfeeding also lowers our chances of developing ovarian, breast, and uterine cancer as well as developing osteoporosis.
Breastfeeding also provides emotional benefits between a mother and her baby.Nursing releases a hormone called oxytocin that helps relax you and your baby. Oxytocin also helps strengthen the emotional bondage between the two of you. It is an amazing feeling to know that your baby needs YOU for nutrition, comfort, and closeness.