Breast milk is the most complete single source of nutrition for the first 6 months of life. There is no formula that duplicates breast milk. Breast milk contains:
Breast milk changes over time with a baby's nutritional needs. The first milk produced is colostrum, a sticky, yellowish liquid that contains protein, minerals, vitamins, and antibodies. Colostrum is produced during pregnancy and the first few days after delivery. The transitional milk comes in after the colostrum, followed by mature milk about 10 to 15 days after you deliver your baby.
Breast milk also changes during each feeding. The last milk in the breast, called hindmilk, is higher in calories, nutrients, and fat and helps satisfy your baby's appetite. To get to the hindmilk, breast-feeding (or pumping) should continue on one breast until it is emptied. This usually requires at least 10 to 20 minutes of feeding or pumping for each breast.
Breast milk is easy to digest, so breast-fed babies are rarely constipated. Newborns younger than 2 weeks should have at least 1 or 2 bowel movements a day. Babies older than 2 weeks can go 2 days and sometimes longer between bowel movements. It’s usually okay if it takes longer than 2 days, especially if your baby is feeding well and seems comfortable.
Breast-feeding protects and helps your baby in ways that formula feeding does not. These benefits include:
Children younger than one year of age may benefit from a vitamin D supplement. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for your child in addition to your child's other vitamin and mineral needs, especially iron.
- Hanna N, et al. (2004). Effect of storage on breast milk antioxidant activity. Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 89(6): F518–F520.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding (2005). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2): 496–506.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2007). Breastfeeding: Maternal and infant aspects. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 361. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 109(2 pt 1): 479–480.
Last Revised: April 14, 2011
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