As a mother, making sure that your baby grows up healthy and happy is the most important thing. Breast milk is the best food for your baby. It is naturally produced by your body to meet your baby’s needs. Since your baby’s body is still developing, it cannot digest complex nutrients easily. Nutrients present in breast milk are easily digested and absorbed by the baby’s body.
For the first year of your baby’s life, your baby will only need breast milk in order to meet their nutritional needs. After your baby turns 6 months old, your doctor may advise you to start offering solid foods to help meet the growing nutritional needs. Even then, breast milk will continue to be your baby’s main source of nutrition.
The protein composition of breast milk makes it highly nutritious and easy to digest. It contains two major proteins - whey and casein.
The ratio of whey to casein in breast milk is always high when compared to cow’s milk. The average whey to casein ratio in breast milk is usually around 65:35 whereas in cow’s milk, it is around 19:81. But the composition of breastmilk keeps changing throughout infancy.
The whey to casein ratio is highest in colostrum and it then reduces as the baby grows. In early lactation, the ratio of whey to casein is usually between 70:30 and 80:20. It then drops to around 50:50 in late lactation.
The main difference between whey and casein is the ease of digestion. Whey protein can be easily digested by your baby’s body. Casein, on the other hand, is relatively harder to break down. Now let us take a closer look at whey and casein to know what roles they play in your baby’s nutrition:
Whey is a protein that is easily digested by your baby’s body. Whey helps in faster gastric emptying and hence it helps in maintaining the digestive system in a proper manner. This is crucial in the happy growth of the baby.
Casein forms an insoluble curd which is relatively hard for your baby to digest. It has larger and more complex protein molecules that are not easily broken down. Hence, the amount of casein in breast milk should ideally be low to ensure that it is easy to digest.
In cow’s milk, the casein content is too high. If you give your baby cow’s milk, it can result in painful gas problems and constipation. This is why it is strongly advised to stick to breast milk when your baby is still under 12 months of age and continue to breastfeed as long as you can. It is best to consult your doctor about when and how to stop breastfeeding.
To conclude, you should always prefer to feed breast milk to your baby. It should be the main source of nutrition for the first year of your baby’s life. Introducing cow’s milk should happen only after 12 months, provided you have consulted your doctor for this.
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.