The first thing a newborn baby feeds on right after birth is breastmilk. Mother's milk is a complex mixture that contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and an adequate amount of water for your newborn. Experts recommend that the baby be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. It is only after the baby turns one that you can think of introducing cow's milk to your baby. Breastmilk alone has enough water for the first year.
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So what is the unique composition of breastmilk that ensures baby gets the right amount of protein, water, and energy required for its growth in the first year?
Human breast milk is a complex matrix with a general composition of 87% water, 3.8% fat, 1.0% protein, and 7% lactose.
What do proteins in breastmilk actually do?
We are aware that proteins are essential macronutrients that support the body's growth. But here are some of the things proteins help with
- They build strength and repair organs, bones and, muscles
- They help in developing hormones and enzymes.
- Proteins break down into amino acids. What are amino acids? Amino acids are small components that are in charge of small but very essential functions. From working to make sure the gut functions properly to helping with brain development – amino acids have very critical roles.
Breastmilk contains proteins that are just enough to aid baby's rapid growth in the first year.
Levels of protein in breastmilk:
One of the major differences among the milks from different species is the protein level which is related to the growth rate of the young. The quicker or bigger the animal grows in a year, the more protein is found in the milk of that species.
Breastmilk’s protein content can fluctuate over the period of a day.
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Quality of protein found in Breastmilk:
Breastmilk has a ratio of 60:40 of two classes of proteins — Whey and Casein. With the higher ratio of whey to casein, breastmilk is easily digested by the baby's tummy. Whey remains in the liquid form in the stomach and contains antibodies that are essential in developing the baby's immune system. This is a thin form of protein that can be broken down easily by baby.
Casein, on the other hand, is a thicker form of protein that forms hard to digest curd in the stomach.
But isn’t eating protein good for my growing child?
Just because proteins are the building blocks of the body, it may be easy to assume that eating more protein makes you grow faster. But that is not the case.
- Eating too much protein can put excessive strain on a baby’s kidneys. Excessive protein in infants can also lead to renal solute overload.
- Casein, which is a thicker form of protein is difficult for the baby’s tummy to digest. So a higher composition of casein means difficult digestibility.
- Proteins can influence metabolic parameters and have an effect on weight gain. Too much protein may lead to excessive weight gain and long-term diseases.
Breastmilk is nature’s gift to babies and perfectly balanced for a newborn to make a healthy start in life. So make sure you eat a healthy diet and breastfeed for a minimum of six months so your baby has a good start to long-term health.
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This post is written in association with Nestle Start Healthy Stay Healthy.