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9 Cool Facts About Breastfeeding and Breast Milk

Breast milk is a miracle substance, even beyond it’s reputation as “liquid gold.” In this blog post, learn 9 cool facts about breastfeeding and breast milk (as backed by research!).

newborn breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is the ideal source of nutrition for babies. It contains everything an infant needs. It also provides unparalleled immune support to infants, helps babies develop their own circadian rhythms, and more.

Aside from all the benefits it provides (to both baby and mom), breastfeeding is just fascinating. Today I want to share 9 cool facts about breastfeeding because this miraculous source of nutrition deserves some extra attention.

Cool Facts About Breastfeeding

I’ve already written about 25 benefits of breastfeeding. The facts on this list are just for fun because breast milk is a fascinating substance.

Let’s dive in.

1. Breast milk contains live cells.

In some ways, breast milk is a living substance. Its composition changes, both during the course of one feeding and over time as your child grows.

Human breast milk is made up of water, protein, fats, and carbs. But it also contains various types of cells, including stem cells and live (healthy) bacteria

The presence of these stem cells and probiotics (another word for live, helpful bacteria) means that breast milk is directly contributing to your child’s development and gut health.

2. Your breast milk changes in response to your baby’s saliva.

Similar to #1, your breast milk changes each time your baby feeds at the breast. This is part of the reason your breast milk is one of the best “medicines” for your baby.

When your baby is exposed to new germs or picks up a sickness and then he or she breastfeeds, your body can sense the need for new antibodies. Your body then produces milk containing more fighter cells to help your baby stay healthy. How neat is that?!

This is one reason to feed at the breast instead of with a bottle as often as possible.

3. Your newborn can smell you and your milk and it calms them down. 

Newborns have incredible senses of smell. From the moment they are born, they can detect the scent of their mother, even without having tasted breast milk yet.

Studies have found that the smell of their mother can help a baby stop crying, increase nipple acceptance when feeding, and reduce a newborn’s experience of pain and stress. 

This is part of the reason mothers have such a powerful calming effect on their babies.

It’s also the reason it may be easier for dad to offer a bottle if mom isn’t in the room. 

4. Breastfeeding improves your attachment with your baby.

Breastfeeding has been shown to strengthen maternal attachment. And improved attachment on the mother’s side promotes secure infant attachment.

A secure attachment, simply put, is when infants have learned that they can trust their caregivers to provide for their needs. Building a secure relationship with your child has lots of benefits, including making discipline in the coming years just a little easier.

Breastfeeding and the resulting good attachment also help you develop a clear maternal instinct, meaning your ability to be in tune with and understand the needs of your child.

One group of researchers found that mothers who breastfed their children were more sensitive to their children’s needs.

It makes sense, really. If you choose to exclusively breastfeed, you are choosing to be the sole provider of nourishment for your baby for at least the first 6 months of their life. All that time and closeness adds up.

5. Breast milk literally helps your baby learn to sleep better.

Breast milk naturally contains more melatonin at night. That melatonin is important for newborns because babies don’t have their own circadian rhythms until they are about 3 months old.

The melatonin in your breast milk helps your baby know when it’s time to sleep and helps them develop their own circadian rhythm. That means that breastfed babies generally sleep longer and their sleep is more beneficial than formula-fed babies.

6. Breastfeeding can be a natural contraceptive.

Moms who are exclusively breastfeeding typically don’t have a period for much longer after birth than moms who use formula. That’s because of the hormone prolactin, which helps your body produce breast milk.

Prolactin can prevent your body from producing estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that control your periods. And if you don’t have a period, you can’t get pregnant.

That said, breastfeeding doesn’t work as a contraceptive for everyone. So it’s important to know that you will ovulate (release an egg) before you see your period start. That means you would be able to get pregnant even if you haven’t seen any bleeding yet.

So once you start having sex again, if you want to be sure you don’t get pregnant, be sure to use another contraceptive. (Or use cycle tracking so you can avoid having sex while you are most fertile.)

7. You can donate extra breast milk.

If you collect extra milk while breastfeeding (by using breast shells) or pump and have extra, you can donate that breast milk! Organizations like the Human Milk Banking Association of North America collect breast milk and distribute it to premature infants in need.

In addition to providing necessary nutrition, breast milk can significantly reduce the chance of premature babies getting sick.

I have friends who were so grateful for milk donors that allowed their premature babies to have breast milk even when they weren’t producing enough yet or weren’t with their babies.

8. Breastfed babies are usually less picky eaters.

Research is somewhat inconclusive, but some studies have shown that breastfeeding means your kid won’t be a picky eater. Because your breastfed baby is eating what you eat, in milk form, their palate develops to enjoy all kinds of foods once they start eating solids.

If mothers breastfeed their babies and wait to introduce solid foods until 6 months of age, those kids are far less likely to prefer only specific types of food or to reject new foods.

9. Breast milk can heal wounds.

Last but not least, breast milk has healing properties. Breast milk can be used for many different injuries. Studies have shown that breast milk can effectively cure minor illnesses and conditions, including:

  • Diaper rash
  • Eye problems, including pink eye
  • Chapped or sore nipples
  • Eczema
  • Cuts and scrapes

Though breast milk is not always as effective as medications, it is safe and carries no risks or side effects. And sometimes it is more effective than medication!

Conclusion: The Miracle of Breast Milk

Now you know 9 more cool facts about breastfeeding. Whether you’re looking for ways to improve attachment or wanting an at-home treatment for pink eye, breastfeeding and breast milk are the answer. It really is a miracle what we’ve been given.

Until next time,

Allison

READ MORE:

Breastfeeding vs. Formula: 25 Benefits of Breastfeeding

10 Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

How to Prepare for Postpartum: The Ultimate Guide

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