The 7 wonders of breast milk
Breast milk is incredible, multifaceted, and fascinating. It’s been inspiring our research for 40 years. And as we’re able to discover more and more about its composition, more unexpected and amazing properties are being revealed.
Seven facts that might surprise you:
Your breast milk is totally unique to you
Its composition is determined by factors including your diet, hormones, genetics, environmental influences, and the needs of you and your baby.
Your baby recognises the smell of your breast milk1
The scent of your breast milk prompts your newborn to show searching behaviours2. And, amazingly, they can sense and process information contained in your milk3.
Your breast milk can help your baby sleep4
As your hormone levels change throughout the day, so do the levels in your breast milk. This means, for example, that in the evening your milk will pass on sleep inducing hormones to your baby.
Breastfeeding makes your ‘love hormones’ rise
The skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding is thought to help with bonding, but scientists have also discovered that your oxytocin (hormone) levels go up while you breastfeed. This is thought to help increase your feelings of love towards your child5.
Breast milk helps your baby have a healthier future
Breast milk is filled with germ-fighting antibodies6. It can reduce the risk of developing eczema, asthma, allergies and obesity in later life7,8, while prolonged breastfeeding helps reduce the lifelong risk of heart disease9.
Breast milk can help your baby become a lifelong healthy eater10
Your diet can directly influence the composition of your breast milk. And the foods you eat while breastfeeding could influence the tastes your baby enjoys throughout weaning and beyond11-12.
Breast milk is different for sons and daughters13
Did you know that boys consume more of their mother’s milk than girls? And amazingly, the breast milk produced for boys contains 25% more calories than for girls.
Breast milk produced for boys contains 25% more calories
We still don’t know how milk becomes naturally tailored to each baby’s needs. In fact, we’re only just beginning to understand the subtleties and complexities of breast milk. There’s much more research needed, but there is no doubt that breast milk is wonderful.
- Nishitani S et al. Neurosci Res 2009;63:66-71.
- Porter RH, Winberg J. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1999;23(3):439-49.
- Schaal B et al. Olfactory cognition at the start of life: the perinatal shaping of selective odor responsiveness. In: Schaal B (ed). Olfaction, Taste, and Cognition. West Nyack, NY (U.S.A.): Cambridge University Press, 2002.
- White, R. (2017). Breastfeed Med, 12(7):398-400.
- Uvnäs-Moberg K et al. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 1990;69:301-6.
- Sadeharju, K. et al. Pediatrics, 2007;119(5):941-946.
- Kull I, Wickman M, Lilja G, et al. Arch. Dis. Child. 2002;87:478-481.
- Koletzko B. et al. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2009;646. Springer, Dordrecht
- Rich-Edwards, J., et al. Epidemiology, 2004;15(5):550-556.
- Beauchamp GK, Mennella JA. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2009;48(Suppl 1):S25-30.
- Mennella JA et al. Pediatrics 2001;107(6):E88.
- Beauchamp GK, Mennella JA. Digestion 2011;83(Suppl 1):1-6.
- Powe CE et al. Am J Hum Biol 2010;22(1):50-4.
Between 6 to 12 months your baby may start to express discomfort or display emotions such as anger and fear. During this time, they will look to you for security especially in times of uncertainty.
Essential for healthy blood, iron is a vital nutrient during pregnancy. It has a key role in transporting oxygen to your baby and contributes to their healthy brain development.