Breastmilk and Illness : Let's talk!

Updated: Jun 18

While there are many known benefits to breastfeeding, one that isn't discussed as often as others is the amazing sickness fighting properties of your milk.


It's become more commonly known that #breastmilk provides a boost to your baby's immune system and that colostrum (the first milk your body produces) is incredibly high in antibodies; so much so it's been dubbed "nature's vaccine." Colostrum coats and seals your baby's respiratory and intestinal tract with immunoglobulins, working from the first day of life to prevent germs from entering the body and bloodstream.


A look at pumped milk that's changing to meet a baby's unique daily needs - in this case to help fight off getting sick.

But did you also know that breastmilk is ever changing, meeting your baby's exact needs from day to day? The amount of fat, lactose, protein, and potassium (to name a few) will rise and fall as baby grows. Because of this shift, most breastfed babies don't greatly increase the amount of milk they drink as they get older. Instead the milk changes with them to meet their growing demands. Your milk also changes from day to night as well, with higher levels of prolactin in the morning (milk boost) and higher serotonin levels in the evenings (hello sleepytime!) Milk changes during growth spurts, and even changes flavor based on what you eat! #bonappetit But one of my favorite changes is in relation to pathogens and illness. This works in two ways. 1. The mother makes antibodies when she ingests, inhales or otherwise comes in contact with a disease-causing agent. Each antibody she makes is specific to that agent; meaning baby gets targeted protection from the infections they're most likely to encounter. 2. If baby does get sick, while at the breast they send signals through their saliva into the mother's body (mmmm, backwash), which in turn prompts her body to create the needed antibodies and return those to baby. And that urge you get to kiss your sweet little baby ALL over from head to toe?? Go for it! đź’‹ When you do, you're getting samples of your baby's pathogens, which transfer to your lymphatic system and (guess what?) prompt your body to rev up that antibody production. Go body go! I want to add that #breastfeeding is not always the right choice for every family, and while breastmilk is amazing, YOU are also amazing if you chose to feed your baby a different way. You're a great parent, and we're here to support your choices too! ** The milk in this picture was pumped over the course of a few days, in between exclusively feeding a 3 month old. The milk began to noticeably change before he showed signs of sickness, so it was definitely on top of what he needed.

Natural State Doulas is based in Fort Smith and happily serve the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas regions.

 

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