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The amazing facts you never knew about breastfeeding.

Before you read this post I feel the need to make a disclaimer.

It’s important because posts like this create unnecessary tension. They unintentionally make some people feel guilty – even when those who feel the guilt have no cause to.

Mothers read into the words as though they are targeted at them – and they feel they come up short.

So….

Here’s the disclaimer: This is not meant to pit mother against mother. But this IS about breastfeeding, not about breastfeeding is better, not about breastfeeding is the right and only thing to do – just about breastfeeding.

This post says good things about breastfeeding, nice things, interesting things. But that does not mean if you don’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, that your method of feeding is inferior.

It says nothing at all about bottle-feeding– it doesn’t say it is good, bad, the lesser, the better. It is not a comparison.

It’s just about breastfeeding. Okay?

So that said – lets get to it.

We literally dissolve parts of ourselves to feed our babies. (Image via iStock)

Last week an amazing article about breastfeeding was written by a food writer called Angela Garbes for The Stranger. (If you want to read the original, click here.)

Her piece spoke about the science of breastfeeding – how our bodies are literally born for it. How when women produce breast milk they 'melt their own body fat.' Can't complain about that can we?

She says, “We literally dissolve parts of ourselves, starting with gluteal-femoral fat, aka our butts, and turn it into liquid to feed our babies.”

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Amazing stuff.

Garbes article gives us a lengthy insight into the science of breast milk.

As you can imagine it produced the usual debate, that she was shaming women who didn't breastfeed - she wasn't. That she was slamming formula fed babies - she wasn't.

She was celebrating breastfeeding for the miracle it is - and so shall we.

So here are a few more of the fascinating things we learnt from that piece.

Not only does a human female body grow a baby for nine-months, but for at least six months after birth all a baby needs to meet every nutritional need is breastmilk. No water, nothing – just breast milk.

And despite many myths that mothers don’t produce enough most of us do naturally produce just the right amount to feed our babies.

Now if you choose not to breastfeed – no problem, you have made the best decision you can for your baby – but for those who do don’t be fooled by all that talk in mother’s online chatrooms about running out of milk, or not producing enough – your breasts will adjusts to your baby’s needs.

Garbes spoke with Katherine Hinde, a biologist and associate professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. She told her that the nutritional and immunological components of breast milk changes every day, according to the specific and individual needs of a baby.

We know that breast-fed babies have lower instances of colds and viruses - and that is due the fact that breast milk is literally medicine for your baby.

The nutritional and immunological components of breast milk changes every day. (Image via iStock)
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Dr Hinde told Garbes that when a baby suckles at its mother's breast, a vacuum is created.

She wrote:

“Within that vacuum, the infant's saliva is sucked back into the mother's nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This "baby spit backwash," as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby's immune status. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother's body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby's body, where they target the infection.”

We don't just produce the ability to help heal our own children – but we create individual recipes for each child.

Dr Hyde writes on her blog that there is growing evidence the 'biological recipe' of milk produced for sons is different to that produced for daughters. Again an example of our bodies adapting to each individual child.

Mature breast milk – what comes in after a few days of that colostrum stuff contains more vitamins than the local chemist. It is about 3 to 5% fat and has:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Vitamins A, C, and E.
  • Long chain fatty acids like DHA (an omega-3) and AA (an omega-6)

As well as all these vitamins, breast milk also feeds the bacteria in your baby’s gut – so you are not just feeding one organism – but a whole heap of them.

The human milk oligosaccharides, which is a simple sugar carbohydrate is actually indigestible by babies. But they aren’t for your baby they are for the bacteria in their gut.

WATCH the video below for more interesting facts on the science of breastfeeding. Post continues after this video....

Video via SciShow

We also know now that the flavour of your breast milk is unique to your diet.

So if you eat a diet high in spices, chilli or mint, your infant gets a taste for those flavours.( No wonder my kids like chocolate.)

Julie Mennella of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia has written a piece about how breast milk experiences help infants develop their own personal taste preferences.

"The types and intensity of flavours experienced in breast milk may be unique for each infant and serve to identify the culture to which the child is born," she said.

What we all need to take from these undoubtedly amazing facts is that breastfeeding your infant is an incredible gift, one that scientists have only just begun to unearth the benefits of.

Again – it doesn’t mean that those mums who don’t breastfeed are depriving their infants -  far from it. Everywhere you turn is a formula fed adult who is thriving, successful and happy.

But for those who want to breastfeed we need to ensure that they receive every degree of help we can give them - and beginning to understand the science behind it is one step in that direction.

What do you find the most amazing thing about breastfeeding?

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