“The gold standard of commercial milk formulas is all breast milk”

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Did you know that, according to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, from 1990, and in Romania, after the right to life, the child’s right to the mother’s milk must be respected, and she has the obligation to breastfeed the child? Over time, studies in the field have established that breast milk is the ideal food for the baby, it is a living food that satisfies all the needs of the little one.

Since the existence of mankind, children have been fed at the breast. In the same way that mammals secrete milk specific to the species to which they belong, breast milk is specific to the human species. Remember that, in nature, no animal borrows milk from another species! Each mammal has a unique composition of milk, adapted to the needs and growth rate of its own young.

Mother’s milk, imitable, but incomparable

Breast milk is an individualized food for each child, and its composition always changes during a suckling, according to the needs of the little one. Also, it is always different, depending on the age of the child, and it is never of poor quality, says Dr. Ana Culcer, in the “breastfeeding and care of young children course”. The new technologies for preparing milk powder formulas imitate the composition of breast milk, but they cannot replace it. Each mother’s milk is specific for her child, containing antibodies for all the diseases suffered by the mother. Moreover, if the baby takes a microbe from the mother, it receives the necessary antibodies to fight the pest through breast milk.

Careful! It is not recommended for a mother to breastfeed or give milk to another child, because it can transmit various microbes and viruses to the breastfed child and the child may not be strong enough to fight against them, for example, AIDS, hepatitis, syphilis, etc.

Energy value

Breast milk is the “gold standard”, the ideal food for feeding the newborn, at least during the first six months of life. The energy value of this precious liquid for health varies between 64 – 72.3 calories per 100 ml, depending on certain socioeconomic factors, the state of nutrition of the mother, the time of day, but also the distance from the date of birth. The energy content differs as the lactation period progresses, and this variation is interpreted as adaptation to the infant’s needs. The energy substances needed by the child are provided by the adequate content of macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates).

Thus, the composition of milk can vary according to:

1. The moment of birth

Colostrum – thick, sticky, colorless or yellowish, secreted by the mammary gland from the beginning of the seventh month of pregnancy until the first three days.

Transitional milk – secreted between the fourth and the 14th day after birth.

Mature milk – secreted after the 15th day after birth.

2. The timing of breastfeeding

“Early” milk – milk from the beginning of breastfeeding has a lot of water, appears thin, bluish, watery. It contains lactose, proteins and provides the water that the infant needs.

“End” milk – milk from the end of lactation has many calories and quickly creates the feeling of satiety, due to the richness of proteins and fats. Milk appears thicker, whiter and contains fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, K)

3. The moment of gestation

Full-term milk.

Premature milk.

“The gold standard of commercial milk formulas is all breast milk”

Read below the full interview, given exclusively for “Click! for women” by Dr. Oana Sinisteanu, primary care physician, specialized in paediatrics.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for the child, but also for the mother?

Breastfeeding and a mother’s love are the most precious gifts a child can receive! Early sucking after birth triggers the secretion of oxytocin, which quickly contracts the uterus and shortens the duration of postpartum bleeding, thus preventing anemia that can occur with heavy bleeding. Breastfeeding also helps to restore weight more quickly. It reduces the risk of breast cancer (by 50%), ovarian cancer (by 33%) and osteoporosis (by 50%). Breastfeeding helps establish a unique relationship of love and attachment through skin-to-skin, eye-to-eye contact. From a practical point of view, the mother saves time and money.

Breast milk is the ideal food for the baby. It is a unique food, easy to digest and used entirely by the human body. It fits perfectly with the child’s gastrointestinal, metabolic, renal and cognitive functions. It is sterile, always at the optimal temperature, fresh, always at hand.

In addition to vitamins and minerals in the optimal amount and in the optimal ratio, pre and probiotics so necessary for the colonization of the infant’s digestive tract, hormones and growth factors, breast milk also contains defense substances, antibodies and immune factors, anti-inflammatory factors, which help to prevent respiratory and digestive infections. The naturally fed child has a lower risk of developing asthma, allergies, diabetes, obesity, and has a lower serum cholesterol level.

Breast milk is easier to digest, so it prevents digestive problems: diarrhea, constipation.

The composition of breast milk changes, adapting to the needs of the child.

The milk at the beginning of breastfeeding appears thinner, bluish, watery. It contains a lot of water and satisfies the infant’s need for hydration. The milk at the end of breastfeeding is richer in fat, appears thicker and whiter. Fats give satiety.

Why is breastfeeding preferable?

Breastfeeding is preferable for all the reasons mentioned above, starting from the premise that for each mammal the milk of its species is ideal.

Also, breastfeeding has social advantages, decreasing the rate of illness among infants and children, decreasing the number of presentations to the emergency room, the number of hospitalizations and environmental advantages: reduced pollution (detergents, packaging, etc.), saving thermal energy and the water.

Is breast milk more nutritious than commercial formula milk?

The gold standard of commercial milk formulas is all breast milk. Milk powder manufacturers tried to copy this standard. In some respects they succeeded, but not entirely. The variability of the composition of breast milk, depending on age, the time of the meal and the presence of immunological defense factors are qualities that cannot be copied by milk formulas. We must also mention the fact that there are also contraindications to breastfeeding, and then these formulas are lifesavers.

What is colostrum?

Colostrum is the milk secreted by the mammary gland in the first four to six days after birth. Colostrum is fluid, viscous, its color is more yellow. It has a higher protein concentration, necessary for a good start for the newborn, it has a higher concentration of immunological substances (secretory IgA, lactoferrin, lysozyme), a different carbohydrate content, so it favors the development of the intestinal flora specific to the breastfed infant, low content of lipids, to be more easily and quickly absorbed and a higher mineral content.

Why do some women not have enough milk? Is there any connection between the amount of milk produced and the size of the breasts?

There is no connection between the size of the breasts and the amount of milk. The amount of milk varies depending on how often and how much the baby sucks. Nature is amazing and, for example, if the mother has twins, she will produce milk so that you can feed both of them.

The mother must be counseled, she must discover together with the doctor the reason why the milk secretion is less. Breastfeeding failure is usually due to emotional factors, related to anxiety, lack of conviction or the many occupations of the modern woman.

Are there any rules for successful breastfeeding, right from the start?

The mother and the newborn adapt on their own. The mother must be advised, taught, but the right method is found by her. We only have to take into account a few general rules for the installation, growth and maintenance of milk secretion: putting the baby to the breast as soon as possible, feeding on demand, the good emotional balance of the mother and the family and, last but not least, the health status of the mother and the infant.

How is milk produced?

Milk is produced in the glandular tissue of the mammary gland. It increases during pregnancy under the influence of hormones. The formation of milk depends on the prolactin secreted by the pituitary gland, which increases during pregnancy. Milk secretion is dependent on prolactin and oxytocin, and milk production begins when the baby is put to the breast. Then impulses are sent to the pituitary gland, more prolactin is secreted and milk secretion increases. Oxytocin helps to contract the muscle fibers in the breast and to remove the milk.

What foods favor the increase of milk production?

There are no miracle foods that increase milk secretion. Only the baby’s sucking can do it through the balance of these hormones. This balance can be easily broken in conditions of tension, anxiety, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of liquids. Thus, the mother must be careful to eat when she is hungry, drink liquids when she is thirsty and adapt to the new rhythm of life.

How much does breastfeeding change the shape of the breasts?

Lactation increases glandular tissue. The fatty tissue of the breast can change its location, but it is not influenced by breastfeeding. The appearance of the breasts after breastfeeding also depends on the woman’s weight, how much she gained during pregnancy, and her genetic makeup. Studies show that breastfeeding is not the only factor that determines the change in the appearance of the breasts. Other more important factors are body fat percentage and body mass index, woman’s age, breast size before pregnancy.

Can a mother breastfeed if she has a cold? And if she was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, can she breastfeed without risk?

Yes, the mother can breastfeed if she has a cold or if she is infected with SARS-CoV-2. These are not contraindications to breastfeeding. Moreover, there are very few contraindications to breastfeeding, for example: tuberculosis, measles, chicken pox.

Does breast milk protect against respiratory infections, viruses, bacteria and strengthen the infant’s immune system?

Yes, definitely yes. Breast milk offers passive immune protection, through the transfer of anti-infective factors from the mother, active through the stimulation of the child’s immune system, establishes an optimal intestinal flora specific to the breastfed child, eliminates contact with the foreign environment (bottle, teat that can be contaminated), but also by the fact that breast milk is a food not contaminated with pathogenic agents.

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Dr. Oana Sinisteanu

family medicine primary doctor, specialized in paediatrics, Concierge Medical by Intermedicas clinic, Bucharest