It can be tempting for breastfeeding moms to think that
we’ve got it made in the shade when it comes to our baby’s nutrition.
No worries here,
thanks, our babies get complete nutrition from these fountains of liquid gold. *Pats our respective breastfeeding backs
But the truth is, there is a lot about breast milk that we
still don’t understand. For instance, breast milk doesn’t contain the necessary
amount of Vitamin D that most babies need, so the American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents give exclusively breastfed
babies Vitamin D drops every day.
It’s important to see the studies dedicated to researching
the specific qualities of breast milk because in understanding its composition
and benefits, we can only better nourish babies, no matter if their
parents choose to breast- or formula-feed.
And there’s a lot about breast milk that may surprise
you—like the fact that it’s alive and can look pretty crazy under the
microscope. Or the fact that breast milk contains one important ingredient
that doesn’t even nourish your baby at all, but instead just feeds bacteria
living in the gut.
Yup, you read that right. Your precious breast milk? It's also
a favorite food for bacteria.
Human breast milk contains a huge percentage of special
sugars, called oligosaccharides,
which are partially digested by the baby but mostly pass through the
intestines intact. So why do they exist?
We talk a mean game about breast milk, but even today, we’re still not really sure what exactly makes the stuff so great.
science-specific on you, one study explains how the bacterium Bifidobacterium infantis, which is present
only in babies, uses oligosaccharides “as a sole sugar source.” Or,
in other words, breast milk produces special sugar that feeds bacteria in your
this is not as horrifying as it may sound. Bacteria, we are discovering, is what
makes the world go `round. We need bacteria and bacteria need us. Some scientists even envision a day when instead of fighting
infection with antibiotics, we will instead feed our body “good bacteria” that
will help us get healthy again.
really interesting about this specific sugar in breast milk is that it only fuels
certain bacterium in your baby’s gut, which begs the question, why is that
bacteria so important? What is its function? What happens when babies’ guts are
lacking those bacteria? And while we may not have all the answers just yet, adding
oligosaccharides to infant formula has improved babies’ digestive health as
well, as science gains the ability to learn from nature’s first food.
story short, we talk a mean game about breast milk, but even today, we’re still
not really sure what exactly makes the stuff so great. In learning more about
the specific components of breast milk and exactly what they do, we can go a
long way in better supporting both breast and formula-fed babies.