Breast Milk

It seems fairly obvious that your breast milk changes according to what you eat, but did you know it also changes according to the age of your baby?

When your baby is growing rapidly your breast milk is very thick and full of nutrients, fats, proteins and so. As baby's growth slows down, the milk composition changes so that the milk is thinner and more dilute.

Content of Breast Milk

The complexity of breast milk is only now being recognized. There are over 200 constituents to breast milk, some of which are only just being researched. The milk contains a varying mixture of fat, carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, lactose, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients like immunoglobulins and fibronectin.

However, breast milk can be low in iron, so it is important for you to have your iron levels checked regularly and take iron supplements if necessary, especially if you are exclusively nursing after 6 months. Also vitamins D and K can be lacking in some women. Many people don't have sufficient vitamin D and K in their diet anyway so it is important to make sure that you have enough when you are nursing.

Milk Quality

Even women who live in less than ideal situations produce good quality milk. So you don't need to worry, your baby draws what it needs from you, and as long as you are healthy and eat properly, both you and your baby will be fine. Whereas mothers with very poor diets or inadequate nutrition will have babies that will be reasonably well nourished even though they themselves may end up being deprived of their nutrient stores.

Your Diet

You may need to stop eating some foods when you are nursing as they may disagree with baby. Many women find that spicy or gassy foods, like hot peppers and curry or cabbage and onions cause baby to have wind and indigestion. Other foods that you eat that can cause problems are dairy products and wheat. If your baby is very fretful or has a lot of phlegm it can be a good idea to try excluding milk and wheat products from your diet and see if that helps baby.

Making Your Milk Richer

If you want to improve the quality of your breast milk, first of all it's important to make sure you are drinking enough water and sleeping enough. Many women find that getting enough sleep immediately improves their milk quality and quantity. Make sure that while baby is nursing you drink a large glass of water, and this should help your milk. If your diet is poor you may need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement. You can also try snacking on 'trail mixes' from your local health food store, as these are easy to eat and provide a good mix of nutrients. Another way to improve your milk quality is to add brewers yeast to your diet. In fact a bottle of Guinness a day used to be recommended to nursing mothers! This was because of the high iron content in stout beers. Whether of course this was so good for baby is debatable!

The World Health Organization recommends women nurse their babies until they are at least two. So remember when you feed your baby breast milk you are giving your baby the best start in life you can.

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