Baby-boosting Ingredients in Breastmilk

Mom breastfeeding baby

Most mothers know that breast milk offers superior nutrition to their babies and that it can protect the baby from illness and disease. But the wonders of breast milk stretch far beyond these already amazing properties, and scientists are continuously discovering new components of breast milk that we didn’t know about previously. Let’s look at a few ingredients in breast milk that you may not have known about.

Ingredients in breastmilk to help boost baby

1.  Five types of antibodies

Antibodies are immune cells that recognise harmful organisms and other threats and act to neutralize them in various ways. There are five basic types of antibodies, and breast milk has them all – IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE.

The antibodies in breast milk are extra-amazing in a few ways. They are not damaged by the enzymes in baby’s gut. They are also made by the mother’s body in response to any threats in their immediate environment, thus specifically protecting the baby from any bacteria and viruses that he has a big chance of being exposed to right now.

2.   Extraordinary iron

Although breast milk has fairly low levels of iron, the iron in human milk is absorbed 5 times better than iron in cows’ milk. Breast milk also has high levels of lactose and vitamin C, which facilitate iron absorption. The ingredients in breast milk helps to prevent anemia.

3.   Powerful proteins

The proteins in breastmilk are especially designed to help baby grow. Breast milk also contains a few proteins that play a big role in preventing illness and disease. Casein, one of the two main proteins in breastmilk, prevents harmful organisms from attaching to the baby’s bowel walls. Fibronectin is a protein that makes immune cells more aggressive so that they will ingest harmful organisms.

4.   Bifidus factor – giving baby’s probiotics food for thought

Probiotics (or good bacteria) play a vital role in our bodies’ immune systems. Newborn babies are extremely vulnerable to infection, and one of the reasons for this is that their skins and digestive tracts are not yet colonised by these good bacteria. A newborn gets his very first introduction to good bacteria during birth, where he is exposed to the mothers’ probiotics in the vagina and anal area. The colonisation with bacteria that will occur in the early days and weeks after birth will have long-term effects on the baby’s health.

There is an ingredient in breast milk named ‘Bifidus factor’ which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.

5.   Leptin (a hormone we all could use!)

Although the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood, drinking breast milk affects a gene in a baby’s body that produces a hormone called Leptin. This hormone tells a baby when he’s had enough to drinking, preventing overeating. This explains to some extent why breastfed babies drink only as much as they need, rather having smaller feeds more frequently. This offers long-term protection against obesity.

6.   Stem cells

This fairly recent discovery is mind-blowing. Stem cells are known to be found in umbilical cord blood and in bone marrow. These cells can divide into any other cell in the body. Stem cells are often harvested and stored for later treatment of an ever-expanding list of diseases and conditions, including various types of cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Although the exact role of stem cells in breast milk is still a mystery, ongoing research done at the University of Western Australia have found evidence of these cells in the blood and other organs of breastfeeding babies. It is reckoned that these cells play a role in the optimal functioning and development of these organs.

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7.   Allergens from mom’s diet

But that can’t be good, right? It can indeed. New research is showing that earlier exposure to allergens reduces the risks of allergies later. It is reckoned that a baby’s immature immune system is unable to fully respond to an allergen. Later on, when the immune system is stronger, it already recognises the allergen and it is less likely to trigger a full allergic reaction. For this reason, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology now recommends introducing allergenic foods to babies from as early as four months of age.

The wonderful fact is that babies fed with breast milk get exposure to any allergens that the mother is eating through her breast milk. Although this is not a guarantee that a baby won’t be allergic, it helps to reduce the risk.

8.   Oxytocin – the love hormone

Oxytocin is the most powerful endorphin (or feel-good hormone) in the body.

Every time you breastfeed your baby, your body releases oxytocin and your baby gets it in the breastmilk as well. What an amazing mechanism to help mothers cope with the stress of having a new baby. It plays an important role in bonding and in preventing postnatal depression. It highlights one of breastfeeding’s most important advantages, which is the special bond it creates between mother and child.

These are only some highlights of literally hundreds of amazing ingredients in breast milk that provides in babies needs in ways that we cannot even fully comprehend yet. For further reading on the contents of human milk, visit

Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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