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Human Culture is an Ingredient of Breast Milk- Part 1

I believe breast feeding is the foundation of building a strong bond between mother and child as well as communicating with each other. This month I hope I can give you an interesting perspective about the mother's milk.

The Unique Component of Breast Milk

The component of the human breast milk is very unique. There is only 1/3 protein content in human breast milk compared to that of the cow's milk. It has 1/8 the protein of dog milk, and only 1/10 of or rabbit and dolphin milk and can be said that it is the least protein content among mammals. The orangutan's milk is surely the closest to that of humans, but even then, there is a deep density of 20% of the milk being protein content.

However, these figures are reversed when it comes to sugar content. Human breast milk has 1.6 times as much sugar than cow's milk, 2.3 times that of dogs, 3.5 times that of rabbits and finally, 8 times that of dolphins.

I wonder, what in the long history of evolution of mankind, affected the mother's milk to end up with such a composition? I would like to review this issue from a human biology (note 1) point of view.

Weaning of Humans is Slower than that of Animals

Biologically speaking, one of the biggest differences between humans and other mammals is that it takes humans nearly a year to become ambulatory.

Cows, horses and other animals begin walking a few days after birth, and seek out the mother's milk on its own. Furthermore, the timing to wean from the mother's milk is also quite early.

The bear is born in a den during the snow, and the birth weight of the baby cub is less than the birth weight of the human newborn. However, the breast milk that the baby cub drinks is very rich and high in fat, allowing it to grow bigger and bigger and increase its weight. From birth to the time the snow melts -- in a matter of a few months -- the cub grows to be about ten kilograms. And, it is said that the cub seeks berries and fruits from the trees on its own and even helps the mother in trying to catch salmon from a cold clear stream.

In comparison, the human child cannot walk for nearly a year. Therefore, mobility (the ability to move seeking a targeted object) of the child is extremely limited, and moves by being carried in his/her mother's arms.

As you already know, protein becomes nourishment for the muscles and bones, which is in turn critical for the development of motor skills. On the other hand, sugar is the nourishing source for energy.

The human breast milk is more important for the development of body functioning (note 2) of the human body, rather than the direct nourishment for bone structure or muscle framework. It is the main component that supplies the organs with energy and the necessary fluids to maintain a healthy and active development. This is particularly true for the brain, since the baby's brain is proportionately larger than the adult's.

On the other hand, the mother's milk of other mammals are provides nutrients necessary to develop the muscle and bone structure needed for the early development of mobility and motor skills.

Animals must develop their motor skills as soon as possible, as well as their instincts for living, since they face the dangers of nature, and must keep living through the "survival of the fittest" rule.


(Note 1) Human biology: it is the study of human beings being positioned, among other mammals, as fostering culture (philosophy, religion, arts, science, technology, etc.) and to analyze biology in these terms.

(Note 2) Ecological functioning points to functions such as the nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system, circulatory system and hormonal secretions of the human being.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1991). Bonyu no seibun ni ningen no bunka ga aru- 1 (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved April 1, 2001, from the World Wide Web:
http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0078.html
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