From the moment a woman gives birth, she starts worrying for her baby’s well-being and nutrition. This is why a new mommy goes the extra mile to learn every aspect of breastfeeding much before the baby is born. From learning the right latching techniques to figuring out the best possible foods to improve the quality of breast milk, she does it all. And why not? Considering breast milk is the baby’s first food and probably the only source of nutrition. If you are one such mom who constantly worries if her breast milk is sufficiently nutritious for her baby, then here is what you need to know.
What are the key components of breast milk?
The very first form of breast milk comes in small amounts and is rich in immune protective factors (macronutrients) as well as developmental factors (micronutrients). This ‘first milk’ is known as colostrum. Thereafter, 3 days after birth, the mother’s milk starts coming in and will continue to increase in quantity as well as change in composition to suit the growing baby’s needs.
The nutritional components of the breast milk, made in the milk-making breast cells, are almost entirely sourced either from the maternal fat stores (from extra pregnancy weight) or the mother’s diet.
What are the micro and macronutrients in breast milk?
The macronutrients in breast milk are made up of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The proteins include lactoferrin, secretory immunoglobulin IgA, casein, and other such proteins. The major carbohydrate component in breast milk is lactose along with oligosaccharides. Fats in breast milk is a highly variable macronutrient (more about them discussed in the next section). The micronutrients in breast milk consist of vitamins such as vitamin B12, Vitamin D, minerals, and iodine. The micronutrients are also made up of a variety of bioactive factors (antibodies, growth factors, hormones) and anti-infective factors that safeguard the baby from inflammations and infections.
As mentioned earlier, these nutritional components of breast milk are mostly sourced from the mother’s diet aside from maternal fat reserves. Thus, a lactating mother’s diet plays a major role in improving the quality of milk.
Breast milk and brain development
Breast milk contains fats that are essential for the health and growth of the baby. The fat content in breast milk is the primary source of calories. It is essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the baby. The long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid in breast milk, also known as DHA, is a necessary component for the development of the retina, brain, and the nervous system of the baby . In fact, DHA makes up 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids found in the brain and 25% of the brain’s total fat content .
The amount of DHA present in the breast milk is directly dependent on a lactating mother’s diet. The more a breastfeeding mother consumes long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), the higher the proportions of those fats in her breast milk .
Breast milk and Immunity
At the time of birth, the baby’s immune system is very weak. The micronutrient components of breast milk are made up of bioactive and anti-infective factors along with vitamins, minerals, and iodine. The bioactive factors contain, among other things, antibodies that help improve the baby’s immunity. For instance, if a lactating mother catches an infection and develops antibodies to fight the infection, she will ultimately pass on those antibodies to the baby too. The anti-infective factors in breast milk contain a vast number of living cells including white blood cells and stem cells that might help in healing inflammations and prevent infections. Another major anti-infective factor is the secretory immunoglobulin IgA antibody, which is present in the breast milk in abundance. This, along with other anti-infective breast milk proteins such as lysozyme and lactoferrin, protect the baby from infections and boost immunity.
Can you get your breast milk tested?
It is quite natural for breastfeeding moms to fret about the quality of the milk. Most would have even wondered at such times if there was some kind of a test to check for the quality of their breast milk. However, not many new moms are aware that breast milk can be tested for its quality and content. One such breakthrough breast milk test is LifeCell Diagnostics' OmegaScore-N. By now, we are aware of the importance of DHA in breast milk. Its optimal presence can make a huge difference to your baby’s overall health and brain development. If you wish to check the level of DHA in your breast milk, then the OmegaScore-N test helps you know precisely that!
How can you enrich the nutritive value of breast milk
As discussed earlier, breast milk’s nutritional components are mostly derived from the lactating mother’s diet. Therefore, it is quite possible to enrich the nutritive value of your breast milk by adjusting your diet accordingly.
For starters, a breast milk test like LifeCell Diagnostics' OmegaScore-N helps you get a clear picture of your breast milk’s DHA content. Thereafter, you can draw up a diet plan where you can add foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Foods such as dairy products, seafood, and pastured eggs provide sufficient amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you can always check with your doctor and either add DHA-rich food items or go for DHA supplements. Follow this new diet plan for four weeks and then take a OmegaScore-N re-test. This will help you know if you are on the right track.
Breast milk is often referred to as nature’s gift to the newborn. It is not only your baby’s first food but also the best source of nutrition for the little one. And, if you wish to know or improve the quality of your breast milk, then you can always check with LifeCell Diagnostics’ OmegaScore-N. Afterall, your baby deserves nothing but the best!
LifeCell Diagnostics OmegaScore-N is a very simple, hassle-free test of breast milk which provides you quick results as well. All you need to do is provide a dab of breast milk on the test kit that is provided and mail to the LifeCell laboratory. You’ll get the results within 7 days!
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