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Breast milk — a miracle of nature

Breast milk, by its very nature, is the best nourishment for your child. It contains all the nutrients your baby needs during the first few months. Furthermore, it can reduce your newborn's risk of allergies and it provides antibodies that protect your child from infections.

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Properties of breast milk

Without a doubt, there is no better nutrition than breast milk. But what makes breast milk so special? The following is an overview of the most important properties of breast milk:

  • perfectly matches your baby's nutrient and energy needs
  • easily digested by your baby's sensitive digestive system
  • available any time, ready to drink and hygienic
  • always at the perfect temperature
  • contains important antibodies that help build up your baby's immune system
  • can possibly prevent allergies

Components of breast milk

  • Fat

    On average, 4% of breast milk is made of fats. Fat is very important for newborns because it covers up to 50% of your baby's energy needs. In addition, a large proportion of the fat contained in breast milk is unsaturated fat, including the LC-PUFAs (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids) omega-3 and omega-6 that strengthen the development of the brain, nervous system and photoreceptors (cells in the retina critical for sight).

  • HMOs

    HMOs are human milk oligosaccharides and are an important component of breast milk. HMOs provide many scientifically-proven benefits, e.g. they promote a balanced intestinal flora, block damaging bacteria in the intestines, and support the natural development of the immune system.* If you would like to learn more about HMOs, please read on.

  • Protein

    The main task for proteins in your growing baby is to serve as the building material for numerous elements and processes in the body (such as muscles, blood cells, immune response and enzymes).

  • Carbohydrates

    Lactose (or milk sugar) is a natural component of breast milk and serves as a source of energy for the newborn. During digestion the milk sugar first has to be broken down into its constituent parts. This is done in the small intestine by the enzyme called lactase.

  • Fibre

    GOSs (galacto-oligosaccharides) are prebiotic fibres. Due to their presence in breast milk, they are seen to be an important building block in baby nutrition.

  • Minerals and Micronutrients

    • Calcium is the most important mineral for the maintenance of teeth and bones.
    • Iron is an essential micronutrient because it transports and stores oxygen in the blood. As such, iron is also important for the generation of energy within the body.
  • Vitamins

    • Vitamin A is important for vision, the immune system and protecting the body's cells from damaging oxygen molecules.
    • Vitamin D is responsible for the absorption of calcium in the intestine and is involved in bone development.
    • Vitamin E is one of the body's most important forms of protection, shielding proteins, fats and cell membranes against harmful oxygen molecules. 

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Colostrum and the components of breast milk

What is colostrum?

In the first few days your breasts produce the precursor to breast milk, colostrum — a clear, slightly yellow fluid. This colostrum contains antibodies called immunoglobulins that protect the baby from infectious diseases for the first few months. It is easy to digest and induces an important event: the first stool, in which the baby gets rid of the remnants from their time in the womb. The resulting green-black paste is called meconium.

After about two days, a fattier and more energy-rich transitional milk is secreted. By the end of the second week the mature milk is established and provides your child with everything they need for their healthy development. The mature milk is thin and almost white.

Is colostrum enough for my baby?

Yes. Assuming a normal birthweight, colostrum is usually sufficient for your baby's needs until the mature milk comes in. Occasionally, however, there is good reason to supplement feeds; due to obvious dehydration, to stabilise blood-sugar levels, or because of significant weight loss, for example. If this is the case, your paediatrician or birthing clinic will give you a thorough consultation. You do not need to worry about potential nipple confusion because initial extra supplementation for newborns rarely interferes with breastfeeding. The one important thing to keep in mind is that you should always try to feed from the breast first.

So, what are the important components of breast milk?

The important components of breast milk include LC-PUFAs (long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids) that support the development of the brain, nerves and vision, and HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides) that promote a balanced intestinal flora. You will find more information about HMOs here.

Furthermore, breast milk lays the foundation of your child's health. It supplies protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals as well as micronutrients — all in the right amounts and of the highest quality.

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We're here for you with our parenting advice hotline.

If you have any questions about breastfeeding or infant and toddler nutrition, our experienced colleagues in parent consultation will be happy to help and advise you.

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