What Is Breast Milk

Mature breast milk is a thinner and almost translucent solution. It is not uncommon for it to present a slightly bluish tinge. Mature breast milk contains a greater ratio of whey to casein protein than cow's milk. Infants digest whey protein more easily, whereas casein tends to form a curd during digestion. Mature breast milk also contains a protein called lactof-errin, which can bind iron and potentially reduce bacterial infections. This is because bacteria require iron to reproduce. In addition, the amino acid called taurine is also present in breast milk. Taurine is not used to make proteins, but it is necessary for proper bile formation and visual processes.

The fat content of mature breast milk increases during a single feeding. This is an excellent reason to encourage an infant to feed for longer periods of time (more than 10 minutes). Infants need this energy-dense liquid available later in a feeding to help meet their needs for growth and development. Further, mature human breast milk contains linoleic acid and cholesterol, both of which are necessary for the proper growth of an infant's brain and other nervous tissue.

Lactose is the major carbohydrate in mature breast milk. You will remember that lactose is a disaccharide made up of the monosaccharides glucose and galactose. Beyond providing energy, galactose also seems to be important for the development of the insulating wrapping around nerve cells. Only small amounts of vitamin D are present in mature breast milk, so a supplement may be necessary, especially if an infant has minimal exposure to sunlight. Furthermore, because the iron composition is also very low in breast milk, infants may benefit from a supplement by their second to third month.

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