What is in breastmilk?

Last post I looked a little into the benefits of breastfeeding and the evidence behind one of the claims. This time, I thought it would be interesting to look at the composition of breastmilk, and why it is so hard for infant formula to replicate the same mix.

According to this article by Prentice, colostrum and mature milk contain the following components per 100 ml: 

Substance Unit Amount in colostrum Amount in mature milk
Calories Kcal 55 67
Fat g 2.9 4.2
Lactose g 5.3 7.0
Total protein g 2 1.1
Secretory IgA g 0.5 0.1
Lactoferrin g 0.5 0.2
Casein g 0.5 0.4
Calcium mg 28 30
Sodium mg 48 15
Vitamin A mcg  retinol equivalents 151 75
Vitamin B1 mcg 2 14
Vitamin B2 mcg 30 40
Vitamin C mcg 6 5

BUT, those are just some of the defined substances that we can measure easily!

It also contains things like antimicrobial factors, growth factors, cytokines and anti-inflammatory factors, digestive enzymes, hormones, transporters, and nucleotides. There are also substances in there called oligosaccharides (at least 130 different types, and in high amounts) and other food components such as the carotenoids. Human milk also has a varying flavour that is affected by the diet of the lactating woman. For example, garlic, mint and vanilla flavours are transferred to breastmilk. This is why breastfeeding is recommended. It is impossible for manufacturers of infant formula to make a product that matches human milk for all these extra components, particularly given the cost constraints. Also, since breastmilk is so complex, we are a long way from understanding the short and longterm health consequences of all the individual components.

Breastmilk is amazing stuff!

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