Composition of Breastmilk
Breastmilk is all that a baby needs
during the first six
months of life
is a normal and ideal food because it contains
all the nutrients that a baby needs for first
6 months of life. It is quickly and easily digested.
Breastmilk at different stages of lactation is
defined by different terms namely Colostrum, Transition
milk, Preterm milk and Mature milk.
During the first few days after delivery a woman
produces special milk that is thick, sticky and
yellowish or clear in colour. This special milk
is called colostrum.
contains large quantities of protective substances
and growth factors and has more protein and Vitamins
A and K than mature milk.
enhances the development and maturation of the
baby's gastro-intestinal tract. The anti-infective
proteins and white cells provide the first immunization
against the diseases that a baby encounters after
Although colostrum is secreted in small quantities
(30-90ml), it is sufficient to meet the caloric
needs of a normal newborn in the first few days
also has a mild purgative effect, which helps
to clear baby's gut of meconium (the first, very
dark stools) and helps to prevent jaundice by
clearing the bilirubin from the gut.
stimulates the baby's immature intestine to develop
in order to digest and absorb milk and to prevent
the absorption of undigested protein. If a baby
is given any other milk or food before colostrum,
it should be known that it can damage the intestine
and is a potential cause of allergies.
feeding is important, it
hospital/maternity home infections,
diarrhea, pneumonia, nosocomial infections,
the two weeks that follow the colostrum stage,
the milk increases in quantity and changes in
appearance and composition. The immunoglobulins
and protein contents decrease while fat and sugar
contents increase. At this time, the breasts feel
full, hard and heavy. Some people call this as
breastmilk 'coming in'.
milk increases in quantity and contains all the
nutrients needed for healthy physical and mental
development of the baby even though it appears
thinner, more watery than even cow's milk. Mature
milk changes even during the length of a single
feed to exactly suit the needs of a baby.
milk that comes at the start of a feed is called
foremilk. Foremilk, which is watery and bluish
in colour, has a low level of fat and is high
in lactose, sugar, protein, vitamins, minerals
and water. It satisfies the baby's thirst and
is produced in larger amounts than hindmilk. Mothers
sometimes worry that their milk is too thin in
the beginning. Milk is never 'too thin', it is
important for a baby to have foremilk and hindmilk
to get a complete meal and all the water that
the baby needs.
which comes later in a feed, is richer in fat
and this extra fat makes it look whiter than foremilk.
It satisfies the baby's hunger and supplies much
of the energy of a breastfeed. Therefore, it is
important not to take a baby off the breast too
quickly. Babies who are fed fore and hindmilk
sleep well and grow healthy. There is, however,
no sudden change from foremilk to hindmilk. The
fat content increases gradually from the beginning
to the end of a feed.
baby needs both the foremilk and the hindmilk
for appropriate weight gain.
produced by a woman who has delivered prematurely
is called Preterm milk. This milk has more protein;
minerals, immunoglobulins and lactoferrin than
mature milk, making it more suited for the needs
of a preterm baby. Preterm milk is essential and
best suited for the survival and growth of a preterm
baby. The breastmilk of preterm mothers contains
more proteins to suit the fast growing needs of
a premature baby. The preterm milk is ideal food
for these low birth weight babies.
composition of milk changes according to the gestational
age or maturity of the baby. So the milk produced
by a woman who has a full term delivery varies
in composition to the milk produced by a woman
who has a premature delivery.