We’re all aware that breast milk provides necessary nutrition for babies during the first months of their life. However, not many know that there is actually more than one type of breast milk.
What is breast milk?
Breast milk is the milk coming from the breasts of a woman after her pregnancy, starting from about 24 to 48 hours after giving birth. Breast milk is considered the most important source of nutrition for infants before they can digest other types of food.
Benefits of breast milk
Breast milk is a great source of nutrition. The mother’s diet directly affects the milk’s nutritional components, especially the concentration of nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, essential fatty acids and DHA fatty acids. So, every mother’s milk is different from each other and there is currently no formula that can 100% resemble breast milk.
Breast milk is not like any other pre-set menu food but on the contrary, it transforms itself during each stage of breastfeeding, according to both the climate and the gender of the baby, in order to meet the baby’s development needs.
Types of breast milk
While the content of breast milk changes over the course of baby’s development, there are essentially 3 types of breast milk: colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk.
Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk. It is the yellowish milk produced during the pregnancy and can last for several days after the baby’s birth. Colostrum is very rich in nutrients and antibodies, making it the perfect food for a newborn child. Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immune globulin. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that pass from the mother and provides passive immunity to the babies. Passive immunity protects babies from a wide range of bacterial and viral diseases. Two to four days after birth, colostrum will be replaced by transitional milk.
Transitional milk replaces colostrum within fours days after the pregnancy and lasts for about two weeks. It contains lactose, water-soluble vitamins, and high levels of fat. Transitional milk also contains more calories than colostrum does.
Mature milk begins to appear near the end of the second week after pregnancy. Mature milk is thinner and contains more water than transitional milk does. Water makes up 90% of mature milk, which helps to keep the babies hydrated. The other 10% consists of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats needed for the growth of the babies. There are two types of mature milk: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk occurs at the beginning of the feeding and contains vitamins, water, and protein. Hindmilk forms at the end of the feeding and contains higher levels of fat, which is necessary for the child’s weight gain. Both are necessary to ensure that the baby is receiving adequate nutrition to grow up healthily.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019
Colostrum, Foremilk and Hindmilk. http://www.drpaul.com/breastfeeding/colostrum.php. Accessed December 21, 2016
Colostrum and the Stages of Breast Milk. http://www.livestrong.com/article/496122-colostrum-and-the-stages-of-breast-feeding/. Accessed December 21, 2016