Uniquely tailored to meet your baby's needs.
Your breast milk is unique to you and your baby, and is designed to support babies from their very first hours of life.
Why breast milk is best
Breast milk is designed especially for your baby and contains all the nutrition they need for the first six months of life. It's a complex substance with is unique to each mum with a nutritional content completely tailored to their baby.
What’s in breast milk?
Breast milk is naturally made up of
- Fats (including LCPs)
- Carbohydrates mainly consisting of lactose and human milk oligosaccharides
- Proteins for example whey and casein
- Vitamins and minerals
Through extensive research into breast milk, we’ve learnt a lot about the functional benefits of key components such as LCPs, human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) and nucleotides which all play an important part in the first few months of your baby's life, contributing to their general wellbeing and healthy development3,4,5.
Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, or LCPs, are important for the development of your baby’s brain. Research has shown that two particularly important LCPs – AA and DHA – are found in breast milk1. There’s also evidence that consuming more LCPs during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can be beneficial for your baby’s development, encouraging better visual and brain development and movement skills3.
The main ways to include LCPs in your diet are by eating fish, eggs and meat. Oily fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon are a good source of both AA and DHA. LCPs can also be made by the body from the essential fatty acids found in leafy greens, nuts, vegetable oil and seeds. However, the process of converting the fats in these foods into beneficial DHA isn’t very efficient, which is why it is important to also consume these in your diet6.
The amount of fat in breast milk varies during each individual feed, as well as from feed to feed during the day (24 hours). This variation in fat can be detected through the consistency of your breast milk. Sometimes it can appear thinner and more watery and as the fat content increases it becomes thicker and creamier2.
Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are carbohydrate molecules that naturally occur in breast milk. On average, they are the third largest solid component in breast milk behind lactose and lipids7 and every litre of breast milk contains 12–15g of HMOs4. Breast milk has around 200 known HMO structures that work together to help your baby develop a healthy immune system through the gut7.
HMOs can progress through the digestive tract to reach the lower gut undigested. There, they can stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria4. A well-balanced gut microbiota is key for a healthy development and immune function8.
Your breast milk contains an enormous amount of antibodies that help to support your baby’s immune system, and therefore help your baby’s ability to fight off the infections9.
Breast milk is rich in nucleotides, which are the building blocks for all cells in the body, including the immune system. Research has shown that nucleotides support the activity of certain cells within the immune system, helping protect the body against infection5.
Breast milk and immunity
Colostrum, the yellowish coloured milk produced after giving birth, is full of germ-fighting antibodies and immune cells10,11. It’s extremely concentrated, so your baby only needs a small amount at each feed, which may be quite frequent. These calorie-rich first feeds coat the lining of your baby’s gut to help protect them from germs and may reduce the risk of developing allergies at a later date12.
As you continue to breastfeed, your breast milk will still contain antibodies. And as you come into contact with new infections, your breast milk will contain new antibodies which will automatically give your baby some immunity9.
The human milk oligosaccharides found in breast milk have also been shown to have a direct influence on the immune system, directly interacting with immune cells in the gut13,14,15.
Breast milk and weaning
What’s also incredible is that your breast milk will vary in taste according to what you've eaten – which in turn means your baby may be more likely to accept a wider range of tastes when it comes to weaning16.
1. Jensen RG. Handbook of milk composition. London Academic Press 1995.
2. Saarela, T., Kokkonen, J. and Koivisto, M. Acta Paediatrica ,2007;94(9):1176-1181.3.
3. European Food Safety Authority Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies. Scientific opinion: DHA and ARA and visual development. EFSA Journal 2009;941:1-14.
4. Thurl S, et al. Nutr Rev, 2017;75(11):920-33.
5. Carver, J. Acta Paediatrica,1999; 88:83-88.
6. Hornstra, G. Am J Clin Nutr, 2000:71(5):1262S-1269S.
7. Ruhaak LR and Lebrilla CB. Adv Nutr 2012; 3:406S-414S.
8. Wopereis H, et al. Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2014;25(5):428-438
9. Cabinian A, Sinsimer D, Tang M, et al. PLoS One. 2016;11(6):e0156762.
10. Thapa, B. (2005). Health factors in colostrum. The Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 72(7), pp.579-581.
11. Hassiotou F, Hepworth AR, Metzger P, et al. Clin Transl Immunology. 2013;2(4):e3.
12. Iyengar, S. and Walker, W. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2012;55(6):641-647.
13. Thurl S, et al. Nutr Rev, 2017;75(11):920-33.
14. Bode L, et al. Thromb Haemost, 2004;92(6):1402-10.
15. Eiwegger T, et al. Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2010;21(8):1179-88.
16. Beauchamp G and Mennella J.. Digestion. 2011;83(Suppl 1):1–6.
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.