Your breast milk is totally unique to you and it will produce all the nutrients your baby needs for the first few months of their life. A healthy, balanced diet along with plenty of water will make sure your breast milk is nutritious and abundant, but it can also be affected by genetics, hormones, your baby’s needs and the environment. For example, the hotter the weather, the more water your breast milk will contain!
What does your breast milk contain?
Breast milk is made up of mostly water (87.5%), and then carbohydrates, fats, proteins and minerals.
The milk you produce at the beginning of your breastfeeding session is called foremilk. This is full of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and fats. The fat content varies between women and even within and between feeds.
Towards the end of your breastfeeding session the milk, called hindmilk at this stage, is thicker and darker in colour. The darker colour is due to a higher percentage of energy and fat which allows babies to go longer between feeds.
What your breast milk can do for you and your baby
- Breast milk can help your baby sleep. Your hormones change throughout the day, affecting your breast milk, so in the evenings your milk will pass on sleep-inducing hormones to your baby.
- Breast feeding increases your levels of oxytocin, supposedly increasing your feelings of love towards your baby.
- The germ-fighting antibodies in your breast milk increase your baby’s chance of having a healthier life in the future.
- What you eat during the time you are breast feeding can affect your baby’s taste buds. It is thought that this process, which we call taste imprinting, may help explain the continuation of cultural and ethnic food preferences.
- Breast milk differs for boys and girls. The milk produced for a baby boy contains 25% more calories than what would be made for a baby girl.
- Breast feeding can burn about 500 calories a day.
- The more milk your baby drinks the more your breasts will produce and vice versa.