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Breast Milk is a Baby's Full Course Meal- Part 1

This month I would like you to join me as I follow up on the last essay and analyze nature's most beautiful gift, "breast milk".

From Soup to Dessert: Breast Milk is a Full Course Meal

The contents of breast milk change over time, but even during feedings, the consistency changes from being thinner in the beginning to richer towards the end.

Through scientific analysis, it has been known for quite some time now, that the last drops of the mother's milk while feeding have a high content of fat.

With this information available, the following study was conducted. The mother's milk was analyzed when the baby was five weeks old. The baby fed from the left breast, while the milk from the right breast was collected. The English journal, Lancet, reported that as time progressed during the feeding, the mother's milk became richer.

In addition, they also found that once the baby begins to suck on the nipple, the amount of breast milk secretion increases rapidly, beginning with a lighter consistency and ending with a richer, thicker breast milk.

When the breast milk was dried to powder, the weight of the powder increased by 1.5 times. However, interestingly enough, when the density of protein was measured, there was no significant change. On the other hand, the density of the fat was found to increase by nine times.

When the pH (note 1) level was measure, it also showed that it increased during the course of the feeding. When the baby begins to drink the mother's milk the pH level is 7.2, but by the end, it has increased to 7.4. Consequently, this implies that the alkaline content increases, making the milk less acidic.

What does all this mean?

Awakening the baby's palate: the mother's milk introduces the body to flavor variations

For the baby, the mother's milk is first watery, then becomes richer, almost to a creamy consistency, and becomes less acidic, making it more flavorful.

Even an adult's full course meal begins with a light flavored soup progressing through many courses ending in a rich dessert. Similar to the full course meal, the baby also "drinks" a full course meal given by his/her mother's breast milk.

The change in the richness of the breast milk and pH level is equivalent to what adults experience as a change in flavor. What implications are there to know that the mother's milk changes flavor during the course of one feeding.

From a human biology perspective, I cannot ignore the significance of evolutionary progress.

We know that in the womb, the baby drinks amniotic fluid. We also know that, just before delivery, the baby drinks about 500 cc of amniotic fluid daily and secretes the same amount of a little less urine. Thus, breast milk is not the first thing that enters the baby's mouth. However, for the baby that has entered the "outside world", breast milk is the first thing that is acknowledged as food. This encounter with breast milk introduces the infant to many flavors and to the delicate changes in flavors.

When we compare this to formula drunk out of a bottle, there is not variation in flavor from the beginning to the end when the bottle is emptied. This is a very big difference in the baby's experience.

I would like to continue in my next article, about the significance of the components in breast milk.


(Note 1) pH is the numerical value that depicts the density of acidity or alkalinity. For example, pH 7 is the value for pure distilled water and is regarded as neutral.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1991). Bonyu ha akachan no furuko-su 1 (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved May 25, 2001, from the World Wide Web:
http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0080.html
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