Five babies are sitting next to each other, lined up in a row.
Breastfed babies may develop healthier brains and experience fewer problems with allergies and asthma. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Breast milk is almost always baby’s best source of nutrition, as it meets nearly every single dietary need.

The benefits are endless, for mom and for baby.

I’d like to share some astounding breast milk and breast feeding facts I find fascinating.

Babies who breastfeed typically have a higher IQ and they also experience fewer allergies and illnesses, as well as lower risk of SIDS and asthma.

Breast milk is the ideal nutritional source because its contents change as the baby changes.

In fact, the only area in which breast milk arguably falls short is in vitamin D.

Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU per day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life to avoid developing a deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But beyond that, breast milk has hundreds of components that make it a unique, complete food.

It contains more than 1,000 proteins, 20 types of amino acids, millions of live cells, 200 complex sugars and 40 enzymes, as well as hormones, vitamins, minerals, antibodies and long-chain fatty acids.

Transitional milk

One of the most fascinating things about breast milk is how it changes over time.

For the first few days it exists as colostrum, which provides lots of antibodies to help protect baby. It also works as a laxative in this form, helping baby get rid of meconium, that black, thick tarry bowel movement.

Between Day 3 and Day 5 breast milk becomes transitional milk, which is higher in fat content and looks more like what we would consider traditional milk. It contains more calories and lactose, as well as still providing antibodies, good bacteria and other ingredients that keep baby healthy.

At about the 14-day mark breast milk becomes mature milk, mostly consistent in its components, although it can vary based on the baby’s health.

Two big reasons I find breast milk so amazing: It adapts to baby’s needs and it contains live cells that fight infection.

Breast milk is considered a bioactive fluid, changing in composition according to baby’s unique needs.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I had a baby at 32 weeks. My milk was different for her when she arrived as a premie. Pre-term breast milk tends to be higher in protein and fat, which can help the baby develop.

Breast milk also contains live cells called leukocytes, which help fight infection.

The real McCoy

Imagine my surprise when I recently came across a news article talking about making breast milk outside of the body.

A company called Biomilq is working on this.

In their lab they have grown human mammary glands that can produce lactose, a sugar, and casein, a protein.

The researchers ultimately aim to make milk nutritionally close to breast milk, but they admit it’s unlikely to be immunologically close.

There are simply too many additional nutrients that can’t be replicated.