Mother’s milk for a baby is a living, fresh food that passes from mother to child without an intermediary. It is perfectly adapted to the needs of the child: it stimulates his physical and intellectual development and contributes to the maturation of his digestive system and his immune system. Each mother produces milk adapted to the needs of her child.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to ensure the health of the newborn, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to this entity, breastfeeding saves 1.5 million lives each year.
I – The Function of Mother’s Milk for a Baby
It is very easy to digest thanks to all the active non-allergenic enzymes it contains, and thanks to its proteins perfectly absorbed by the child. It provides the number of minerals and vitamins needed by the baby without harming the kidneys. It also provides all the types of fat the child needs: omega-3 fatty acids and other essential fatty acids, which contribute to the baby’s brain development and vision.
Rich in antibodies at the birth of the child, mother’s milk for a baby sees its composition evolve a month later to adapt to its needs. It contains 200 molecules of sugar: vitamins, immunoglobulins, oligosaccharides.
The sugar molecules take different forms and serve to enhance immunity, stimulate growth and shape the gut microbiota of the child. The first function of mother’s milk for a baby is to promote the colonization of the intestine by bacteria capable of digesting sugar molecules. Infants are born without bacteria in their intestines, but in a few days, they have millions, and only a week after birth, billions.
1 – Mother’s Milk for a Baby Strengthens Infant Immunity
Mother’s milk has the function of laying the first stones of the newborn’s immune system. From birth, mother’s milk is rich in antibodies and molecules slowing the growth of harmful bacteria and coordinating the activity of white blood cells. After one month, the level of maternal antibodies drops by more than 90%, probably because the child begins to develop his own immune system. Human milk contains specific proteins that destroy certain bacteria and carry iron.
Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated a protective effect of breastfeeding on digestive infections (vomiting, diarrhea) or respiratory infections (rhinitis, otitis) in early childhood and on certain allergies. For example, breastfeeding would prevent asthma provided it is exclusive and prolonged for at least 4 months. Breastfed children would also be less at risk of obesity during childhood and adolescence. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that in the case of breastfeeding, the child is most often fed on demand. He learns to self regulate his diet earlier than the bottle-fed child. Breastfed children are also less likely to have diabetes.
2 – Mother’s Milk for a Baby and Benefits for the Mother
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of haemorrhage after delivery; it decreases the likelihood that the mother will suffer from anemia (delaying the return of her menstrual period) and reduces the need for insulin in diabetic women. In the long term, it also reduces the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer or uterine cancer. Finally, it acts on the hormonal level and lowers the level of stress of the mother.
Weight loss is faster in the six months following delivery. Breastfeeding makes it easier to lose weight by tapping into the fat accumulated during pregnancy.
On a psycho-emotional level, breastfeeding plays an important role in the mother’s development and even mental health. As the World Health Organization points out, breastfeeding can create unique physical and emotional bonds that benefit both the mother and the child. This melee allows the mother to establish herself in her role as a mother.
3 – Duration of Breastfeeding
The World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend feeding babies only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Breastfeeding can then continue for 2 years and beyond if the baby’s diet is supplemented with complementary foods.
The beneficial effects of breastfeeding on the health of the mother and the child are related to its duration and its exclusivity: the longer the duration of breastfeeding (in a number of months) and the more exclusive it is (breastfed child only), the more its beneficial effects are important. This explains why it is so strongly recommended to exclusively breastfeed the baby for the first 6 months of life.
During the first months after birth, breastfeeding plays a key role in the harmonious development of the newborn. However, it is not always possible for the new mother to respond daily, and whenever necessary, to this requirement. Different circumstances may temporarily move the mother away from her baby, complicate breastfeeding periodically, or temporarily render the milk unfit for consumption. In anticipation of such situations, new mothers can opt for an alternative solution, halfway between natural and artificial breastfeeding: draw their milk and keep it.
It is best to start storing milk four or five days before the date when it will be necessary to separate from the baby, to avoid stress.
Mother’s milk for a baby is a very stable product, which keeps very well. As a fresh, live food, wash hands and equipment thoroughly before collection to avoid contamination.
4 – Breastfeeding and Work – Extracting and Storing Mother’s Milk for a Baby
*** Preservation of Mother’s Milk for a Baby
– Wash hands before handling or expressing.
– Use well-washed and sterilized containers.
– Keep the cold chain as long as possible.
– Properly freeze the milk that will not be used.
– Keep the milk in small quantities (50-100 ml) so that you can thaw only what the child needs at each dose.
– Label the milk containers with the date and time of expression to always defrost the oldest milk.
– Once thawed, stir the milk to homogenize.
*** Milk Transport
Place it in an insulated container with ice cream. The journey should not take more than one hour and once at the destination, put the milk immediately in the refrigerator.
*** Thaw and Heat the Milk
Unheated milk must be consumed within one hour of leaving the refrigerator; if it has been heated, it must be consumed within 30 minutes. Do not refill milk that has already been reheated once.
*** The Duration of the Conversation
– At room temperature, up to 6 hours
– In the fridge, up to 3 days
– In the freezer, up to 3 months
– In a chest freezer, up to 6 months
Procedures such as the extraction, storage and heating of mother’s milk for a baby, which does not already come from the breast and the utensils used could change one of the main beneficial features of mother’s milk for a baby: its sterility.
If breast pumps, nipples, flasks, spoons, glasses and other utensils used for feeding the baby are not sterilized, gastrointestinal infections, pharyngitis, laryngitis, and even oral diseases may occur. These situations can cause serious damage to the baby’s health.
II – Nutrients Promoting Neurogenesis and Dendritic Growth
1 – Carbohydrates
Among carbohydrates (or sugars), there are several types according to the number of simple sugars hooked to each other.
Lactose. Human milk is one of the richest in lactose, especially useful for the development of brain tissue.
Oligosaccharides or oligosides. The first day’s milk – colostrum – is richer in oligosaccharides than mature milk, which corresponds to the infant’s higher needs for cerebral maturation.
2 – Lipids
A fatty acid is a carboxylic acid whose carbon chain is very long. Among the essential fats for the brain: arachidonic acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and cholesterol.
Cholesterol. It plays a role in brain development including myelination and membrane integrity.
Arachidonic acid and DHA are highly concentrated molecules in the cell membranes of the retina and the brain, and they accumulate very rapidly during the period of brain development.
Overall, artificial milk does not contain DHA but contains precursors. It is still necessary that the enzymes that transform them into DHA are active in the infant.
3 – Proteins
Not rich in protein, because the human brain needs mostly sugars, but their quality is special.
Taurine. Amino acid constituting the proteins is in large proportion, it plays an important role in the construction of the brain and the functioning of brain cells.
Leptin. Is a protein composed of 167 amino acids, it regulates fat reserves, plays on the appetite by controlling satiety; it has been shown that it is also involved in the regulation of cognitive function by influencing the mechanism involved in learning and memory.
Since the 1970s medical research has made very great progress. There has been a proliferation of biochemical studies on the composition of mother’s milk for a baby and the effects (in vivo and in vitro) of one or another of its components, epidemiological studies (retrospective and follow-up), clinical studies, etc. Breastfeeding research has also benefited from research and discovery in immunology, hormonology, the study of infectious diseases, the study of mechanisms of allergy, etc.
The studies concerning them are very numerous, and all lead to the same conclusion: mortality and morbidity are much lower in breastfed babies. They are 10 times less likely to be hospitalized for any serious bacterial infection, and 4 times less likely to have bacteraemia or meningitis. The difference is particularly dramatic in poor countries where infectious diseases are responsible for the vast majority of infant deaths.
III – Breastfeeding and Celebrity Development
1 – Breastfeeding Would Help the Development of Baby’s Brain
Researchers at Brown University (USA), in a study published in NeuroImage in June 2013, found that breastfeeding allowed for better brain development than synthetic milk.
The researchers used a child-friendly form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe brain growth in 133 babies aged 10 months to 4 years while they were sleeping. Previously, the children had been separated into three groups: those whose mothers reported having breastfed them for the last three months; those whose mothers alternated artificial milk and natural milk; and those only fed on artificial milk.
Scientists have particularly observed the development of white matter in the brains of children. In the nervous system, it is she who connects the different parts of the gray matter, where the neurons are located. Thus, the more white matter is developed, the faster the brain connections.
The only breastfed children had significantly higher white matter growth than those fed alternately with formula and breast milk, which in turn had better results than babies fed only synthetic milk. The difference in the development of this substance between babies fed only with natural milk and those fed only with artificial milk was even 20 to 30%.
The main brain areas concerned by this faster growth of the white matter were those of language, emotions, and knowledge. Observations confirmed by a series of behavioral tests performed downstream by the researchers.
Older children have been dissociated from the youngest in order to understand equitably the increase in white matter in each group, which is different according to age.
Separately examining the oldest and youngest children also helps to understand from what age the gap in white matter development is widening. The differences can widen almost from the first moments of life.
The researchers also studied the long-term contrasts by comparing children who had been breastfed for more than a year and those who had been on the same diet for three months. The differences in brain growth were large to the advantage of babies fed breast milk for a year.
2 – Mother’s Milk for a Baby Promotes Brain Development of Premature Babies
According to a study presented by researchers at the University of Washington at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore (USA) and published on the Eurekarlet website in April 2016, premature babies fed half to breast milk would have a brain better trained and developed than others.
Prematurity is one of the major causes of neurological problems in children and is often related to psychiatric disorders later. The researchers followed 77 premature infants (at least 10 weeks old) through their first years of life to see how they were growing up, focusing on their motor, cognitive and social MRI development. They also analyzed whether or not breastfeeding has changed brain development.
Scientists found that premature babies whose daily diet was at least 50% mother’s milk had more developed brain tissue and cortex in volume than preterm infants who received less breast milk at the same age.
3 – Mother’s Milk for a Baby Is Good for the Brain
The brains of breastfed babies grow faster than those of milk-fed babies. Breastfed children would be slightly earlier than others, for language at 2 years of age and psychomotor at 3 years. Mother’s milk for a baby is very rich in essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6, essential for brain development. These fatty acids are of good quality and very well assimilated by the child. The longer the breastfeeding, the more beneficial it is.
According to an Israeli study, mother’s milk for a baby could prevent the development of hyperactivity in children. The researchers assume that this effect is due either to the actual composition of mother’s milk or to the link woven between the mother and her child during the breastfeeding period.
As a Conclusion
“If each child was breastfed within one hour of birth, if he was only given breast milk for the first six months and breastfeeding was maintained until he was two years old, would save nearly 800,000 children’s lives each year, “writes the World Health Organization, which actively promotes this form of food on a global scale.