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Breastmilk — it’s a superpower!

Published in Birthing Services, Women's Services, For the Health of It Author: Katie Lauer, RN, BSN

this looks like a job for supermom!

Superheroes. As a child, you probably dreamed of becoming one. Perhaps you tied a blanket around your neck and called it your cape. Maybe, you simply wished to have superpowers and ran around pretending you were invisible. Sadly, childhood ends, and you realized that superheroes are a work of fiction and superpowers don’t exist.

Or do they?

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, a time to encourage and promote breastfeeding to better the health of babies around the world. Is breastfeeding a superpower? Do breasts contain a certain magic in them? Is breastmilk more than just a drink for infants? In my opinion, yes.

Some of the many superpowers of breastmilk feeding include:

  1. Breastmilk’s ability to change over time. 
    • The first milk, colostrum, will be different for a mother who delivered a term versus preterm baby. This is due to the fact that a preterm infant requires different amounts of nutrients and calories than a term baby.
    • As a baby grows older, breastmilk will change in composition. Breastmilk at 3 months versus 6 months will have a different amount of nutrients in it to meet the needs of the baby during that particular stage of its life.
  1. Babies’ knowledge of how breastfeeding works.
    • Infants almost always feed more at night. Why? They know that at night the hormone, prolactin, is released. Prolactin is responsible for milk production, but also for making one sleepy, which is why it is released in higher quantities during the night.
    • The amount of breastmilk that a woman produces is largely based on supply and demand, especially during the first six weeks.
  2. Breasts’ ability to protect self.
    • A woman’s breast has glands on the areola called Montgomery glands that secrete a substance that is similar in taste and smell to amniotic fluid. This substance not only helps to draw baby towards the nipple for breastfeeding, but also serves to protect the breast from infection and provide lubrication, both of which are extremely important during breastfeeding. 
  3. Breastmilk's ability to protect baby.
    • One drop of breastmilk contains about one million white blood cells protecting baby from infections.
    • There has never been documentation of an infant having an allergic reaction to its mother's breastmilk.
    • When a mother starts to wean a baby from breastfeeding, some of the immune factors in the milk will increase in concentration-almost as a way to “boost” baby’s immune system as he/she starts to get less breastmilk.

While the world isn’t filled with the superheroes of Hollywood, there is superpower present in moms who choose to breastfeed. The magic behind breastfeeding provides many benefits to the babies around the world. Join me this week as we celebrate, encourage and promote the superhero that we call breastmilk.