Why Breast Milk Is The Ideal Food For Your Baby

We all know breast milk is good for your baby. But do you know what it is made of? And how does eating healthy impact breast milk? Know all these and more by going through the article below.

By Lt Col Suma KS

Why Breast Milk Is The Ideal Food For Your Baby

Ankita Agarwal has a five-year-old son called Rajeev. Two months after Rajeev was born, Ankita fell ill with a bout of fever that lasted for days. Fearing for her baby, Rajeev was fed formula milk. After a few days, Ankita realised Rajeev was becoming vulnerable to infections like a cough and cold. A visit to the doctor revealed that formula milk was the culprit. For, it is well known that infants and babies who are breastfed contract fewer infections than those who are given formula.

Breast milk is a boon for babies. It meets the baby’s daily nutritional requirements and helps fight infection. We take a closer look at the components of breast milk.

What does breast milk contain?

Colostrum is the pale-yellow milk produced soon after a child is born. Very little of it is produced but it is packed in antibodies and is equivalent to a vaccine.

More mature milk is produced 2-4 days after the baby is born. It contains 88per cent water, 1.1 gm of proteins, 7.4 gm of carbohydrates, 3.4 gm of fat, 28mg of calcium, IgA immunoglobulin, which provides immunity to newborns, interferon, which has an antiviral property and vitamins A, B1, C, D and E. Breast milk also contains stem cells. After a few weeks of feeding, the mount of antibodies in breast milk reduces. The quantity of milk produced goes up as the baby’s weight increases.

Need for a nutritious diet

A healthy diet provides breast milk with all the essential vitamins and minerals required for the proper growth and development of the baby. In some cultures, there is a lot of precaution and fuss over a lactating mother’s diet. This age-old system is followed to meet nutritional requirements of mother and baby. It is also interesting to note that some foods change the flavour of breast milk.

What are the must-have foods for a breastfeeding mom? Click the article below to find out.

Impact of junk food

Junk food does not affect the nutritional value of breast milk. But it causes vitamin deficiency in the mother, the breast milk would become deficient as well.

Junk food comprises unhealthy food. It leads to an unhealthy gut that lacks healthy bacteria. The immune system is closely affected by a healthy gut. So, it is important to pass on healthier gut bacteria to the baby through breast milk by eating healthy foods. Consuming junk food, however, does not increase the risk of heart disease for the baby.

Impact of medication

Ideally, a mother need not wean off from breast milk if she is on medication unless the medications are being contraindicated by the treating doctor. In some cases, the doctor might ask the mother not to breastfeed the baby if the mother is on antiviral medications, cancer chemotherapy drugs, anti-thyroid drugs and psychotropic drugs.

Drugs are excreted in the breast milk. But, the benefits of breast milk outweigh the risk of the drugs in most cases. In any case, it is always advisable for the breastfeeding mother to consult the doctor to find out if the drug can be safely used during breastfeeding.

Impact of alcohol on breast milk

Occasional intake of alcohol does not have an impact on breast milk. But, regular intake decreases milk production by 20 per cent. Drinking alcohol regularly interferes with the motor development of the infants and hence, it is not recommended.

Are you a working mother worrying about feeding your baby? Read the article below to know how to store breast milk.

Impact of smoking on breast milk

Studies reveal that smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day decreases milk production and alters milk composition.

If the mother cannot quit smoking, it is advisable to smoke immediately after a feed, so that the nicotine level in the breast milk is reduced. As the infant requires breast milk every 2-3 hours, the nicotine level in the milk would be reduced by half before the next feed. It takes approximately 10 hours for the nicotine level to be eliminated from breast milk.

The author is the Chief of Nursing Services, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Bangalore.

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