5 Things That Might Surprise You About Breastfeeding

Contributing Blog Author: Robyn Price, RD, CBS

Robyn Price is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and mother of two. Robyn graduated with two degrees in Nutrition and in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of Saskatchewan, and currently operates her private practice online Canada-wide. She centers her practice on educating and empowering mothers in nourishing themselves and their baby and reaching their breastfeeding goals. Follow Robyn on Instagram for free information, tips, and recipes for mothers and breastfeeding supporters! @breastfeeding.dietitian

1. IT IS DIFFERENT WITH EVERY BABY

Yes, every baby is different, but it’s more than just that because breastfeeding starts before you even breastfeed. All those pregnancy hormones are doing more than making a baby! Your body is preparing your breasts to feed that baby. In fact, the hormone changes that you go through in each pregnancy help your body make more milk-making glands (1). So the more pregnancies you have, the more milk you could potentially make! If your breastfeeding journey didn’t work out the way you wanted your first time around, it likely won’t be the same the second time around. Different baby AND different you!

 

2. IT HELPS YOUR BABY SLEEP

Studies have shown there are specific hormones released in your baby when they suckle that promote relaxation and sleepiness (2). Studies have also found compounds in your milk, specifically melatonin, amino acids, and nucleotides, that show a circadian rhythm where the amount of them in your milk is higher at night (3, 4, 5). Your baby is not making these things in their little bodies yet, so it actually might help them have a sleep-wake cycle. Your milk is made to relax your baby, calm your baby, and put your baby to sleep. As long as they feed well and grow, keep on keepin’ on!

 

3. IT IS A TOTALLY NORMAL WAY TO COMFORT YOUR BABY

You know breastfeeding is your baby’s source of food, but did you know it also meets their emotional need for connection and closeness. When they are experiencing something new, which for them is EVERYTHING, breastfeeding is the familiar thing in their life that lets them know they are safe and going to be okay. The smell and taste of breastmilk, the warm touch of skin to skin and mother’s breast, and the simple act of sucking all bring about a cascade of hormonal changes and multi-sensory signals in your baby that helps to calm and comfort your baby (6, 7, 8).

 

4. IT’S THE START OF A HEALTHY GUT FOR YOUR BABY

Gut health is intricately linked to your gut microbiome, which is the unique group of bacterias living in your gut. At birth, your baby’s gut is sterile and immature - your first milk called colostrum gives a protective coating and a food source for bacteria to grow. Breastmilk as a food source gives prebiotics to feed the beneficial bacteria and proteins that protect your baby from harmful bacteria (9). There is even a unique group of bacterias in your milk, sort of like a probiotic for your baby, and this can be different if you’re breastfeeding at the breast or pumping your breastmilk (10). Another cool part? There are immune factors that came from YOUR gut, in order to protect YOUR BABY’S gut.

 

5. IT IS YOUR BABY’S FIRST IMMUNE SYSTEM

Whatever you eat, touch with your mouth, or breathe in ... your body develops an immune factor called “secretory IgA” specific to whatever thing it was. Your body sends it to glands in the body for protection, one of those being your breasts (i.e. mammary glands) and it ends up in your milk for your baby. So smell your babies, kiss your babies, be in the same room as your babies - that is protecting them! There are also millions of other immune factors in just a single teaspoon of your breastmilk, so every drop is a gift, mama!

 

You. Are. Amazing.



References:

  1. Wambach K and Riordan J. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation 5th Ed. Pages: 79-97
  2. Uvnäs-Moberg K & Prime D (2013). Oxytocin effects in mothers and infants during breastfeeding. Infant. 9:6, 201-206.
  3.  Sánchez, C, et al. (2009). The possible role of human milk nucleotides as sleep inducers, Nutritional Neuroscience, 12, 2-8.
  4. Sánchez, C, et al. (2013). Evolution of the circadian profile of human milk amino acids during breastfeeding, Journal of Applied Biomedicine, 11:2, 59-70.
  5. Cohen Engler, A. et al. (2012). Breastfeeding may improve nocturnal sleep and reduce infantile colic: Potential role of breast milk melatonin, European Journal Pediatrics, 171, 729-732.
  6. Reece-Stremtan, S., & Gray, L. (2016). ABM Clinical Protocol #23: Nonpharmacological Management of Procedure-Related Pain in the Breastfeeding Infant, Revised 2016. Breastfeeding Medicine: the Official Journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, 11, 425-429.
  7. Uvnäs-Moberg K, Marchini G, & Winberg J (1993). Plasma cholecystokinin concentrations after breast feeding in healthy 4 day old infants.Archives of Disease in Childhood, 68, 46-48.
  8. Roseriet Beijers, J. Riksen-Walraven, M & de Weerth, C (2013) Cortisol regulation in 12-month-old human infants: Associations with the infants' early history of breastfeeding and co-sleeping, Stress, 16:3, 267-277
  9. Van den Elsen, LWJ, et al. (2019). Shaping the Gut Microbiota by Breastfeeding: The Gateway to Allergy Prevention? Frontiers in Pediatrics, 7:47.
  10. Shirin Moossavi et al. Composition and Variation of the Human Milk Microbiota Are Influenced by Maternal and Early-Life Factors. Cell Host & Microbe, 2019; 25 (2): 324 

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