I recently attended a breastfeeding class with expectant mothers as part of my doula training. My role is not only to support the mother and her partner during labor, but to assist with breastfeeding after the delivery if necessary. More and more modern women are choosing to breastfeed not only to bond with their babies but to give their babies lifelong health benefits.
Colostrum in Mother’s Milk
When a baby is born and begins to feed, colostrum is secreted in the mother’s milk for the first 6 hours. Through this vital substance, rich in antibodies and vitamins, the mother passes on passive immunity to the baby and builds the immunological response. Specifically designed for a growing baby, breast milk is rich in fats, carbohydrates, proteins and endless nutrients.
Breast Milk Benefits for Babies
According to professor J. Bruce German, Professor and Chemist, University of California, Davis, the type of milk fat globules in breast milk allow the baby to produce more subcutaneous fat (exterior skin) than visceral fat (surrounding organs), which is linked to heart disease and diabetes. He further details that breast milk sugars can prevent harmful strains of bacteria from invading the gut and his colleague has shown that another sugar prevents the transmission of HIV from the breast milk of infected mothers to their babies.
WHEN IT COMES to feeding infants, the mantra is “breast is best.” A diet of breast milk for babies is correlated with benefits including less diarrhea as well as lower incidence of diabetes or asthma when compared to formula-fed babies. … The sugars in human breast milk, for example, appeal to certain strains of bacteria, called bifidobacteria, that can colonize the gut and appear to be important for the health of infants. Well-established colonies of bifidobacteria can prevent pathogens such as harmful strains of Escherichia coli from getting a foothold. – Unraveling Breast Milk, By Jyllian Kemsley – Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)
Breast milk has also been proven to prevent respiratory illnesses, Herpes, multiple sclerosis, inguinal hernia and eczema. Children who were breast fed also tested with higher on cognitive and social development tests.
There’s no doubt breast milk is the ideal food for baby. It contains the ideal mix of enzymes and antibodies, making breastfed babies less likely to have diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory illness, allergies, stomach bugs, and colds. Plus, nursing decreases future risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, childhood leukemia, and other forms of cancer. Breastfed babies may also lower baby’s risk of dying from SIDS, and it’s even been linked to higher IQs. – The Bump
But, what about the part of the population that wasn’t breast fed? Scientists are now finding ways to use breast milk to treat gastrointestinal distress and respiratory illness in adults. There was even a study that proved that colostrum had a therapeutic use for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Professor German states that he is embarrassed about how little we know about breast milk and I agree. And, although all of these studies are necessary and beneficial, I think the best evidence is that women have been doing it for thousands of years. After all, mother knows breast!
Corinne Kohrherr is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Board Certified Chinese Herbalist, Registered Nurse, Licensed Massage Therapist and DONA Certified Childbirth Doula. She is a holistic healthcare practitioner and lives in New York City with her dogs Martini and Olive.