3 Ways Your Breast Milk Changes Over Time
Breast milk is not a “one-size-fits-all” product. From the time your baby is newborn till the moment he or she enters the toddler years and beyond, your breast milk will evolve. It even can change day by day, or feeding by feeding.
All of these “milk mutations” are designed for one thing only: to meet your baby’s needs.
Here are 3 ways your breast milk changes over time.
1. Colostrum: Liquid Gold
When your baby is a newborn, you produce a thin, yellow-ish substance called colostrum. This straight-from-nature formula is packed full of antibodies, which help your baby build up her immune system.
It’s a priceless gift from you, since newborn babies have very little ability to fight off colds, flu, bacteria, and all those other germs that are floating around us.
Colostrum also has a substance inside it that lines your baby’s intestines. This helps prevent bacteria and viruses from entering your baby’s digestive tract.
It also acts like a laxative: It helps her clear out meconium, her first stool, which is extremely sticky. Basically, colostrum gives your baby’s gut a “jump start.”
As if that’s not enough, colostrum also contains:
- Epidermal growth factor, which is thought to promote cell growth
Now your baby is on her way to using nutrition for:
…and all of the other ways nature intended.
2. Your Breast Milk Changes Through Thick and Thin – Literally
By about two weeks after your baby’s birth, you’ll notice your breasts are thicker and heavier. Your breast milk is thinner…but has increased in volume. This is to allow for longer feeds. The milk still has the nutrients your baby needs.
The thickness of the milk can change from the beginning to the end of a feeding, too. The first part, called foremilk, is diluted. The last part – the hindmilk – is thicker. This is because it’s richer in fat, which is good for a baby’s growth and development.
You might notice your baby’s sucking rhythm change. At the beginning of a feeding, it can be quick, until your milk lets down (starts to flow). Then the baby might go into a long, slow feeding rhythm, later followed by more quick, fluttery sucking as your hindmilk comes in. These changes are normal.
Tip: If your baby is not growing quickly enough, ask your doctor about using a breast pump to separate your foremilk from your hindmilk. You can feed her hindmilk often to help her grow faster.
3. Breast Milk Custom-Ordered for Your Baby
It’s as if your body knows exactly what your baby needs: By the toddler years, your breast milk is thicker and more concentrated with nutrients and fat. This is to help him keep sprouting up – and nurture that amazing brain growth!
During especially strong growth spurts, your child may nurse more frequently. Again, this can raise the level of fat in your breast milk, giving her exactly what she needs.
That’s not all. When your baby is sick, it can pass on antibodies tailored to fight his illness. Researchers believe the baby sends your body a cue through his saliva. Chemistry at work.
How Else Can Your Breast Milk Change?
You might notice changes in color, from slightly blue to yellow to beige to orange. All of this is normal. Sometimes, medication can change the color of your milk. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
If you see a rusty or reddish color, it might indicate blood in your milk, which could be a concern. Again, be sure to contact your physician right away for a consultation.
In all its healthy forms, breast milk is power-packed food for your baby. Keep feeding her breast milk for as long as your doctor recommends. Her beautiful, growing body will be all the reward you need.