Protein is a very important nutrient. It is used by our body to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. It is also a vital component of bones, muscles, hair, nails, cartilage, skin and blood. Babies need protein to grow at a healthy rate of weight gain, and mothers often wonder if they are meeting the protein needs of their babies.
Infancy is a period of rapid growth and development and as such, it is definitely important to think about your baby’s protein needs to support growth. A baby grows rapidly during the first six months and this growth has to be supported by the nutrition that the baby receives, the protein being one of the most vital. At the same time, the baby’s developing kidneys and gut cannot digest all kinds of protein or an excess of it, so it is important to choose the right kind of protein for your baby.
Whey vs Casein
There are mainly two types of protein - whey and casein - in any kind of milk. Casein protein is difficult to digest, and more so for your baby. Whey, on the other hand, is easier for our body to digest and the same goes for your baby’s delicate body. It is important to avoid feeding your baby excess protein because it can result in abnormally high growth. The excess protein can also put stress on the immature, developing organs of the baby.
The Right Kind Of Protein
Breast milk contains both whey and casein, with a higher concentration of whey than casein, thus making it easier for your baby to digest and therefore, absorb. Cow’s milk also contains whey and casein but it has a higher level of casein than whey protein, and this could make it indigestible for your baby. In fact, the WHO recommends exclusively feeding your baby only breastmilk for the first six months of infancy. Breast milk should ideally not be replaced by any other milk, as it is a natural source of protein for your baby which makes it a safe and wholesome source of protein.
Remember that although a rapidly growing baby needs protein to support growth, it is very important to feed the right quality and quantity of protein. Breast milk is the ideal protein source for your baby as it has the right kind of protein, in perfect proportion. It is specifically meant for your baby’s nutritional requirements, giving your baby the ideal mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Breast milk has the right quality of proteins which help reduce the risk of long-term health issues like obesity and diabetes.
You may want to give your baby enough protein for their healthy growth, and to do so, breastfeeding is the best choice you can make. Your baby’s protein needs are met by the milk you produce.
Disclaimer: All the information provided in the blog is for reference purposes only. Please do not consider this as a medical advice. Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child.