Breastmilk is the natural form of infant feeding. It is a bodily fluid that develops after the birth of a child in the mother's breast and, as long as there is no health condition, is formed as long as the child is breastfed. According to its needs, the composition of breast milk changes with increasing age of the child.

What is breast milk?

Breastmilk is the natural form of baby feeding. It is a bodily fluid that develops after the birth of a child in the mother's breast.

Human breast milk is essentially the milk produced by all mammalian species. It is formed in the glandular tissue of the female breast as soon as a woman has given birth to a child.

In addition to water, it contains carbohydrates, fat and protein, as well as vitamins and various enzymes and antibodies to ward off possible pathogens. The colostrum is particularly rich in these substances, the comparatively viscous breast milk formed in the first days after birth.

Functions & Tasks

The formation of breast milk is already initiated in the second half of pregnancy. During this time, the placenta releases the hormones progesterone and prolactin, which, among other things, stimulate the growth of the glandular tissue in the breast and prepare it for the production of milk.

Therefore, it may happen even at the end of pregnancy that the breasts secrete a milk-like liquid. The formation of the actual breast milk, however, begins only one to two days after the birth of the child. The injection of breast milk into the breasts can be felt as very painful. First of all, we give off the yellowish and rather viscous colostrum, which is also called Vormilch, which contains a great many substances for the immune defense and whose formation is essentially hormonally controlled.

However, milk production can be stimulated by frequently placing the baby on the breast. After a few days, the composition of the discharged liquid changes significantly until it has become mature breast milk after about eight to ten days. It now contains less protein and antibodies than colostrum, but is richer in fats and lactose and other carbohydrates.

It also contains numerous vitamins and minerals as well as growth and digestive enzymes. The respective mixing ratio adapts to the respective needs of the child. Even during breastfeeding itself, breast milk changes. While it is very fluid immediately after being put on to quench your thirst, it becomes more full-bodied and filling after a few minutes.

By sucking the child, the formation of the hormone oxytocin is stimulated, which not only strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child, but also stimulates the production of breast milk. Therefore, breast milk is provided as long as a child is breastfed on a regular basis.

Diseases, complaints & disorders

Although breast milk is the best form of nutrition for babies, there are circumstances when breast-feeding is discouraged. So there are some infectious diseases that can be transmitted by the mother's milk from the mother to her child.

In particular, in the case of HIV and hepatitis C infections there is a risk that during breastfeeding the corresponding viruses could be transmitted to the infant. In a previous cytomegalovirus disease of the mother is only a premature birth a health hazard. Even when taking various medications, it is possible that the active ingredients pass on to breast milk. Therefore, in such cases breast-feeding should be stopped only after consultation with the attending physician.

Other substances such as alcohol and nicotine, as well as various environmental toxins, also pass from the woman's body to breast milk and should therefore be avoided during breast-feeding. If, in connection with breastfeeding, an inflammation of the mammary glands, a so-called mastitis, occurs, this is no reason to abstain from breastfeeding because there is no risk of infection for the child. Only in the case of a very severe course does it sometimes have to resort to mechanically pumping out the breast milk. If an infant is suffering from phenylketonuria or another metabolic disorder, breast-feeding is usually discouraged.

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