When a woman gives birth and breastfeeds her baby, her body is able to adapt to provide for her baby’s needs in some pretty amazing ways.
Here are 10 crazy facts about women’s bodies and breast milk.
1. Colostrum Is a Baby’s First All-Natural Vaccine
Immediately following the birth of her baby, the mother begins to produce colostrum from her mammary glands for about two to five days. Colostrum is basically the first form of milk and appears yellow and sticky. Colostrum is a protective force for the newborn because it’s full of protective antibodies and white blood cells that not only serve as nourishment for the baby but also help to build a strong immune system. These positive health factors continue on as the mother’s milk matures. Colostrum also creates a tough coating on the lining of the baby’s stomach and intestines that helps prevent any germs from causing illness.
Colostrum is a protective force for the newborn because it’s full of protective antibodies and white blood cells.
2. Transitional Milk Is the Second Milk
After about five days of producing colostrum, the mother’s mammary glands then begins to produce what’s called transitional milk. Basically, transitional milk is a combination of colostrum and more mature milk. The baby can ingest more milk now because his or her stomach has begun to stretch. Transitional milk contains high levels of fat, water-soluble vitamins, and even lactose, and lasts for about two weeks.
3. Mature Milk Works as a Team
About three weeks after giving birth, the mother’s mammary glands begin to produce what’s called mature milk, or complete breast milk. It’s composed of 90% water, which is essential for keeping the baby hydrated, while the other 10% is carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are essential to the baby’s growth and energy.
Mature milk is made up of two kinds of milk. The first is called the fore-milk, which occurs at the beginning of breastfeeding and it contains water, vitamins, and protein. The second is called the hind-milk, which occurs after the milk is initially released, and it contains high levels of fat. Together, both kinds of milk provide complete nutrition for the baby.
4. Oxytocin, the Bonding Hormone, Plays Multiple Roles in Breastfeeding
When a mother breastfeeds her baby, her body releases oxytocin, which is the hormone responsible for fostering a loving emotional bond with her baby. Oxytocin is a very important hormone for a new mother because it helps with let-down and it decreases the size of her uterus after giving birth. When a mother is breastfeeding, the release of oxytocin helps relax her, decreasing stress and anxiety as well. Because of oxytocin, when a mother hears her baby crying or just thinks about breastfeeding, let-down can occur.
Oxytocin helps with let-down, and it decreases the size of the uterus after giving birth.
5. Breast Milk Can Change Color
Depending on what foods the mother eats, the color of her breast milk can change. For example, if the mother eats a lot of green vegetables or drinks something green, especially if it contains food dye like Gatorade, her breast milk can be tinted green. Similarly, if the mother eats or drinks something that’s pink, orange, or red, her breast milk can be tinted those colors as well.
6. Breast Milk Changes with Your Baby
Breast milk has a magnificent way of providing the baby with the exact nutrition he or she needs. When a baby is going through a growth spurt, for example, the baby will nurse more frequently for several days, which signals the mother’s mammary glands to create a higher fat content in her breast milk to support the baby’s growth.
When a baby has been exposed to an illness or is sick, the baby’s saliva will signal the mother to produce more illness-specific antibodies via her breast milk. Similarly, when the mother herself has been exposed or is sick, she will produce more illness-specific antibodies to keep her baby safe.
7. Breastfeeding Lowers the Mother's Risk of Cancer
Breastfeeding helps lower the mother’s risk of contracting breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Since frequent breastfeeding prevents a mother from menstruating, this decreases how much estrogen the woman is exposed to, which has been linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A large study published in The Lancet discovered that women who breastfed for 12 months decreased their chances of getting cancer by 4.3%. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of contracting breast and ovarian cancer gets.
Women who breastfed for 12 months decreased their chances of getting breast cancer by 4.3%.
8. The Mother Can Influence Her Child’s Food Preferences Through Breast Milk
Breast milk can change in taste and smell, depending on the mother’s diet. For example, if the mother eats something sweet, the breast milk will taste sweeter. It also aids in a baby’s food preferences later on. For example, a breastfed baby whose mother drank carrot juice while nursing preferred carrot-flavored cereals when he or she got older. Eating a variety of healthy foods is very good for the mother and baby because it can help prevent the baby from being a picky eater when he or she gets older.
9. Breastfeeding Is a Natural Way To Lose Weight
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, by simply breastfeeding, mothers can burn about 500 calories per day. This will help mothers return to their pre-baby figure much faster, especially if they’re also eating a healthy diet and safely exercising. A Dutch study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition observed that after six months of breastfeeding, mothers had lost about 26 lbs.
By simply breastfeeding, mothers can burn about 500 calories per day.
10. Breastfeeding Is a Natural Form of Birth Control
When a woman exclusively breastfeeds (i.e. nurses every four hours during the day and every six hours during the night), she stops ovulating. According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding provides a 98% effective method of all-natural birth control during the first six months after giving birth, which can be especially important if you’re not planning on getting pregnant again right away.
Not only is growing a human being inside you an amazing ability, but women also have the ability to nourish and protect their infants outside the womb through their breastmilk. The female body is truly impressive!