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Breast Milk Composition

In order to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding, you may want to understand the composition of breast milk. There are three stages that breast milk goes through in the first few months; the first is the colostrum, followed by the transitional milk, and finally the mature milk is produced. Each stage provides infants with important nutrients that help with growth and development.

Understanding the Composition of Breast Milk

Breast milk changes as your baby grows to meet his or her changing needs. Breast milk has three distinct stages: colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk. Each stage provides babies with the exact nutrients needed to help them grow and develop well.

Breast Milk Composition by Stage

Breast milk goes through three stages in the first few months, starting just before a baby is born. The first is the colostrum, followed by the transitional milk, and finally the mature milk is produced:
  • Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk that occurs towards the end of the pregnancy and lasts for several days after the birth of the baby. It is a creamy yellow color and is much thicker than the milk that is produced in the later stages. Colostrum is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and the all-important antibodies. The antibodies help to protect the baby from many illness-causing germs in the environment.
  • Transitional milk occurs after colostrum stage and lasts for approximately two weeks. The transitional milk contains high levels of fat, lactose, and vitamins to help the baby regain any weight lost after birth.
  • Mature milk is the final milk that is produced. Ninety percent is water, which is necessary to maintain hydration of the infant. The other 10% is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are necessary for both growth and energy. There are two types of mature milk: foremilk and hindmilk.
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