A New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding/The Basics
Why should I breastfeed?
Breast milk is the perfect source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk contains appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. It also provides digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and hormones that all infants require. Breast milk also contains valuable antibodies from the mother that can help the baby resist infections. Healthy infants have adequate iron stores to last until 8 months of age. Iron-rich foods can be started at this age. Your pediatrician or dietitian may recommend Fluoride supplementation in communities where water is not fluoridated (areas with less than 0.25 p.p.m. Fluoride).
Cow's milk by itself is inappropriate for infants less than 1 year old. The infant can develop an allergy to dairy products if given cow's milk too early in life. Although cow's milk contains most of the same components as breast milk, these components are not in the same amounts. Cow's milk also lacks the immune factors, called antibodies, that help protect infants until their own immune system fully develops.
Commercially prepared formulas may be based on non-fat cow's milk, whey protein, or soy protein. In order to provide a balanced diet for an infant, formulas are fortified with carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. The antibodies found in breast milk, however, can never be added to formulas.
What is breast milk and how is it made?
At the beginning of the feeding, the milk is bluish and contains lactose and proteins, but little fat; it is called foremilk. The end of the feeding produces hindmilk. The hindmilk contains more fat, the main source of energy for your baby. If breast milk is allowed to sit for half-an-hour after being expressed, the "cream" separates and settles on top of the watery part. This is because human milk isn't homogenized. Homogenization is the process that makes the water and fat portion in milk stay in "one layer."
The Anatomy of the Breast
Milk is produced in small sac-like glands (alveoli) in the breast. These sacs develop after specific hormonal (estrogen, progesterone, pituitary prolactin, and placental lactogen) stimulation that begins at four to six months (second trimester) of pregnancy. The human breast does not store a large volume of milk as cow's do. Most of the milk your baby ingests during breastfeeding is produced during nursing.
The human breast does not store a large volume of milk as cow's do. Most of the milk your baby ingests during breastfeeding is produced during nursing. Suckling stimulates the release of a hormone (prolactin), which stimulates milk production. Suckling also causes the release of another hormone (oxytocin). Oxytocin, in turn, stimulates contraction (or the "let-down reflex") of the milk glands. The milk is squeezed out of the milk gland, into the milk ducts, and into the nipple.