Breast milk is the best, most natural food for your baby. It is filled with a whole lot of nutrients that your baby needs for proper growth and development. As an added bonus, breast milk is easy to digest making it the best option for babies.
Colostrum or first breast milk is what your newborn will get to drink right after he/she is born. This first milk that is produced in the breasts is very thick, with a yellowish tint and is present in a very small amount.
The texture and properties of the breast milk will also start changing as your baby grows. The milk would appear thinner and whiter in colour. This is because the first breast milk (colostrum) actually contains a high amount of protein necessary for a newborn to grow properly. The transitional milk (the milk produced after colostrum) will contain fewer proteins than colostrum and mature milk (which follows transitional milk) will contain fewer proteins than transitional milk.
Now that we have understood how the proteins transition over time, let us find out what proteins are actually present in breast milk and how it affects digestion. Essentially, there are two types of proteins present in breast milk: casein and whey protein.
This is a liquid protein which is very easily digested by babies. It contains lactoferrin which is an iron-binding protein that helps transport iron throughout the body. It also helps boost the immune system of babies by protecting their bodies against bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Breast milk is high in whey protein and contains more whey than cow’s milk.
These are large complex protein molecules that are not that easy to digest. Breast milk contains less of casein and more of whey, making it ideal for babies. Casein can cause problems like bloating, allergies, indigestion and heartburn. Remember - when you reduce the chances of digestion problems, you reduce the chances of colic too.
Colostrum contains about 90% whey protein and 10% casein protein. As the milk transitions to mature milk, it will contain 60% whey protein and 40% casein protein. Gradually, the whey protein will continue to drop until it matches the level of casein proteins. If your baby was born prematurely, breast milk will contain more of whey proteins. The amount of proteins present in breast milk is just the right amount needed by your baby.The main function of these proteins is to ensure that your baby grows and develops in a healthy manner.
Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins. Breast milk contains a number of amino acids. Taurine is one such amino acid present in breast milk. It plays an important role in brain and eye development. Note that taurine is present in abundance in breast milk and is not present at all in cow’s milk. Also, the partially hydrolyzed protein present in breast milk makes it easy to digest and is perfect for a baby’s sensitive tummy.
To sum it all up, breast milk is the most important and best nutrition for your little one. Right from the day your little one is born, they need your protection and support to grow which is why you need to ensure your little one gets the best nutrition. So follow the science and make sure you feed your little one only with breast milk for the first six months or consult with your pediatrician for an alternative that is closest to breastmilk in composition.
Note- This blog has been reviewed by Tinystep Medical Advisory Board
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.