Over the years, research has investigated the composition of breast milk and confirmed that it provides babies with perfectly balanced nutrition, which is why both the Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life.
The main benefits of breastfeeding are that breast milk:
In addition, breastfeeding:
The Department of Health and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life
First milk (colostrum) is produced in small volumes in the first few days after birth. It is yellow in colour and thick and sticky in consistency. Colostrum has a higher protein content than mature breast milk, with the protein mostly composed of antibodies to protect infants from infection until they can build up their own immunity. This is why it is important for mothers to start breastfeeding from birth, even if it is just for these early days. Colostrum has a lower fat content than mature breast milk and is rich in minerals and vitamins A, D and B12.
Colostrum gradually develops into mature milk over a period of about 10 days. Mature milk is thinner and whiter than first milk. Frequent breastfeeding stimulates production of mature milk and helps to prevent breast engorgement. The composition of mature milk also changes during a feed:
It can take around six weeks to fully establish breastfeeding. Frequent feeding is also important to stimulate milk production.
Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learned and it can take time and practice to get the hang of it. Offer mums these tips to help: