Breastfeeding health: Superfood Breast milk is much more than just food

Breastfeeding health: Superfood Breast milk is much more than just food

For the child, breastfeeding is not just nutrition
Breastfeeding is considered the best nutrition for an infant, because breast milk contains an optimal composition of all the nutrients that the child needs in the first months of life. 200 different sugar molecules alone make human breast milk the most complex of all mammals. This is precisely why research is always faced with a major challenge when it comes to the question of what different effects milk has for mother and child. However, it is clear that the yellowish-white secretion of the mammary glands has far more functions than simply feeding the child. This is what Swiss researchers are currently reporting in the journal "Trends in Biochemical Sciences".

Ideal composition of nutrients
Midwives and pediatricians always recommend new mothers to breastfeed their newborns. Not without reason, because breast milk is considered by experts to be the ideal food for an infant because it contains all the elementary nutrients such as Contains proteins, calcium, iron and fatty acids. But the task of milk is not just the child's pure nutrition. Rather, she is a true all-round talent, for example by reducing infant mortality and protecting against infectious diseases, write Thierry Hennet and Lubor Borsig from the University of Zurich in their review article.

Milking in about the fourth day after birth
The breast begins to form milk as early as the second half of pregnancy. This is referred to as “pre-milk” or “colostrum” and is used to theoretically be able to take care of prematurely born children immediately after birth. This milk is thinner than the mother's milk itself, but contains a higher concentration of protein, vitamin A and carbohydrates. This gives the child sufficient nutrition and strength after birth - even if the mother only produces a few drops. From about the third or fourth day after birth, the so-called "milk injection" takes place. This can be a little painful, especially if the milk production starts very abruptly. From now on, each breast will produce an average of 450 grams of milk a day for the first few weeks. Depending on how intensively breastfeeding, it can still be 200 grams a day after 15 months, according to the researchers in their article.

Intestinal bacteria have an impact on the risk of obesity
Shortly after birth, milk is not only responsible for the child's nutrition, but also supports the development of a healthy intestinal flora. Because the numerous sugar molecules apparently colonize the child's previously sterile intestine with bacteria. "Babies have no machinery to digest these sugars, so they are actually for the bacteria - it is like a seed soil and breast milk is the fertilizer," Hennet told the APA news agency. In the course of time, the composition of the sugar molecules and thus the entirety of the bacteria in the intestine (microbiome) change, which not only affect the intestinal health itself, but the entire metabolism of the child. For example, experts believe that intestinal bacteria could be closely related to being overweight (obesity).

Recent studies also show that breastfeeding is positive for the development of the child's immune system. Because immediately after birth, according to Hennet and Borsig, a particularly large number of bioactive proteins such as antibodies, cytokines, defensins or lactoferrin would be in breast milk. These act as a kind of protective shield, because they protect the baby from pathogens until it takes over the defense itself after about a month. From then on, the number of maternal antibodies in milk decreased significantly, as did the diversity of the sugar molecules. The percentage of fat, on the other hand, increases, which promotes the growth of the child, the scientists continue.

Critics see no benefit from breast milk
The topic of "breastfeeding" always leads to controversial discussions. Despite the many positive effects, critics see no added value from breast milk and emphasize that children would develop completely normally even without it. In addition, it is repeatedly mentioned that pollutants such as heavy metals or pesticides get into the milk and could possibly be a danger to the health of the infants. For example, recently Various media reports on the discovery of glyphosate in breast milk caused considerable uncertainty. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) had given the all-clear, however, because according to a current study, no glyphosate could be detected.

"We should be careful about making any recommendations," said Hennet. “On the one hand, breast milk is the product of millions of years of evolution and certainly has the optimal nutrients for a newborn; but the question is: how long does a newborn really need this care? We believe families should make this decision - not scientists, ”said Hennet. (No)

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