Have you ever noticed how the most beautiful things in life are symbols of a spectacular metamorphosis? Like the chrysalis of a butterfly, the milk in your breasts undergoes a tremendous journey during the time leading up to your delivery. The genesis of breast milk is set in a magical substance known as colostrum, a yellow-tinged liquid that provides ample nourishment to your baby in the early days after birth. The production of colostrum begins while your baby is still safely tucked inside your belly, but continues even after your baby’s arrival. If you haven’t been acquainted with colostrum yet, let us get you started.
Colostrum is a wonderful nourisher and a predecessor to what we usually perceive as breast milk. The substance is typically hued yellow or light orange and is sticky to the touch. In terms of nutritional value, it is rich in protein, antibodies and carbohydrates with a relatively low fat composition. Colostrum is light on the digestive system of a newborn, making it the perfect palate cleanser ahead of your mature milk supply.
The Role of Colostrum
Colostrum contains a cargo of essential properties for your baby.
- Colostrum is an excellent source of antibodies
- Colostrum works as a laxative, inducing your baby’s early stools
- Colostrum is a veritable storehouse of nutrition, containing the ideal mix of nutrients for your baby
- The immunity properties of colostrum are far superior to those of mature milk
- Colostrum has often been equated to an antibacterial and antiviral vaccine
- Colostrum forms a shield along your baby’s sensitive gastrointestinal tract, warding off potential risks
- Colostrum contains leukocytes, a special kind of white cells that can annihilate disease-ridden bacteria and viruses.
The Metamorphosis of Breast Milk
What begins as colostrum follows an interesting journey to becoming mature milk.
Stage 1. Colostrum
Colostrum lasts between two and four days but while its consistency is thick, its production is limited, leading newborns to nurse approximately every two hours. During this time, it’s imperative that your baby feeds at least eight times a day. Not only does this augment the ingestion of colostrum, it also induces the production and supply of mature milk. Once your breasts have exhausted their stock of colostrum, they will give rise to a thinner, clearer liquid known as transitional milk.
Stage 2. Transitional Milk
Colostrum morphs into transitional milk about four days after the birth of your baby. Transitional milk displays a less creamy texture than colostrum but is not as flowy as mature milk. Transitional milk is a scaled version of colostrum, showcasing elevated levels of fat, vitamins and calories. This kind of milk usually extends for a fortnight and you’ll notice your breasts feeling heavier and larger than before. Remember that frequent feeds can significantly alleviate pain and uneasiness in the breasts while also acquainting your baby to a feeding schedule.
Stage 3. Mature Milk
The final and longest phase of the breast milk journey is mature milk. Transitional milk evolves into mature milk a little after a fortnight of your baby’s arrival. Its consistency is thinner than colostrum and transitional milk and is predominantly composed of water, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. But what’s interesting is that even the milk within a feed is tailored to a baby’s nutritional requirement. The milk that flows at the beginning of a feed is known as foremilk; this contains a combination of water, protein and vitamins. Hindmilk, on the other hand, is the milk that flows towards the tail end of a feed; this contains magnified levels of fat.
The metamorphosis of breast milk is a transition that honours your baby’s needs at every stage. It just goes to show how powerful, enduring and intuitive a mother’s breasts really are. They are harbours of nutrition and wellbeing, paving the way for a healthy life for her baby. New mommas are makers of miracles; this is proof.
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