What’s In That Stuff? {Breast Milk 101}

What is it about breast milk that makes it so good for babies?
How long do you really need to breastfeed before it’s no longer beneficial?
Once a kid is eating regular foods, breastmilk serves no purpose. Right?

All three great questions that I’ve been asked in the past couple of days.
So let’s break them down…

Q: What is it about breast milk that makes it so good for babies?

A: Human breast milk is chalk full of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies.
Each time your baby nurses and empties one breast of it’s milk, the milk that replaces it comes in even fattier than before. So essentially as your baby grows and requires more fat content, your body creates just that. Amazing right?!
Not only that but when you baby is sick their saliva sends alerts through your breast tissue to your mammary glands to let your body know to change content to help their little bodies fight the germs. What is this sorcery?!
Just the female body at it’s finest!

Q: How long do you really need to breastfeed before it’s no longer beneficial?

A: Most health cohorts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that a baby should receive breast milk ONLY until at least six months of age. This allows the baby’s gut to form and develop properly without obstruction of any kind. But both organizations say don’t stop there!
Here’s where number begin to vary. The AAP states that a baby should continue to receive breast milk until at least 12 months of age. That’s a very common view and many people in the U.S. aim for this number when they’re planning out their breastfeeding journey. However, the WHO suggests that a baby should receive breast milk until their second birthday or beyond. WHAT?! Breast feeding a toddler? It’s actually very common in other countries to find mother’s nursing their children well into their 3rd or 4th year. The U.S. is a bit behind the eight ball on this view. Now, mind you, this does mean that you need to nurse your toddler at the breast (although you can by ALL means!) but even pumping milk to give to your child is a great option.

Q: Once a kid is eating regular foods, breastmilk serves no purpose. Right?

A: This sort of piggybacks off the last question but the answer is no, breast milk remains beneficial for as long as you’re willing/able to give it to your child.
The benefits of breast milk don’t disappear because your baby ages out. Human milk is the only milk that is specifically designed for human bodies. Often when you buy milk in the store whether it be cows, goats, soy, or coconut, often there are added vitamins to meet the needs of the human’s consuming it. Breast milk, paired with a well rounded diet of healthy (preferably whole) foods such as nuts, veggies, fruits, and meats (or other protein sources), can be vastly beneficial to those young, still developing immune and digestive systems. We have a captive audience with our kiddos at this stage in life. What better time to create healthy dietary habits for a life long well-being? Monkey see, monkey do, right? Well… they’re certainly our monkey’s so lets train them right!

And one last topic I’d like to touch on that I know can be a sensitive issue…

Q: What if I can’t produce enough (or any) breast milk to give to my baby?

A: There are many situations that make producing breast milk difficult or even impossible. Know this… you have options and resources available.
Many cities have milk donation banks where mothers who have an excess supply of milk can bring donations and mothers in need can receive the donations to give to their babies. Ask your pediatrician if you have any donation locations near you.
Also, in these situations we get to be thankful for medical advancements and embrace the blessing that comes in the form of infant formulas. It’s still important that you find formulas that aren’t full of chemicals and artificial ingredients, but there are options available and we cherish that ability to still provide healthy options to our babies.

Remember in all of this, that we’re all on the journey together. We learn and grow as we know more.

Blessings friends,
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