What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 1
“What Does a Boob Taste Like?”
One of my Tweeps* recently wondered why her site was getting traffic by a curious few who Googled “what does a boob taste like?” I can only imagine that the inquisitive searchers were actually referring to breastmilk, because, seriously – a boob itself tastes much like a forearm, stomach, or a left butt cheek might – like skin. Lick your own hand and voila! – you’ve just tasted a boob.
Now breastmilk, on the other hand, that is much different. Breastmilk is manna from heaven for the nursing set, and for good reason.
This is the first in a series of posts on the composition of breastmilk in which I’m going to attempt to explain what breastmilk tastes like: first from a scientific standpoint, and then from a more personal one.
The Composition of Breastmilk: An Overview
Breastmilk composition is constantly changing. Its makeup and taste depend on many factors, including how and when nurslings nurse, the time of year, where the mother lives, and what the mother eats. (1) Breastmilk contains “growth factors, hormones, enzymes, and other substances that are immune-protective and foster proper growth and nutrition . . . .” (2)
Recent scientific discoveries have revealed that breastmilk is the only adult tissue that has more than one type of stem cell present. The implications of this fact are being explored, but there is preliminary evidence that these stem cells specifically promote bone and muscle growth in nursing infants. Scientists also hypothesize that “a mother’s mammary glands tak[e] over from her placenta to guide infant development once her child is born.” (3)
Breastmilk really is the original super food.
One of the most obvious differences in composition depends on what type of breastmilk we are talking about. There are really four different kinds of breastmilk: colostrum, transitional milk, mature milk, and involutional milk.
Colostrum is the thick, yellowish milk that can start to appear during pregnancy. Colostrum will nourish your baby for up to a week after birth, and it is the only food (and the best!) that you need to give your baby. Your first milk is full of antibodies to protect your baby from illness, it has laxative properties to help baby pass meconium, it “seals” the newborn’s permeable intestines so that there is a barrier against foreign substances, and it is high in the vitamins and nutrients that will give your newborn the best start in life. (4)
You will produce colostrum for up to a week after your baby is born, then your mature milk will start to come in. Transitional milk is simply a combination of colostrum and mature milk, and it lasts for up to two weeks postpartum. Transitional milk is rich in “fat, lactose, and vitamins to help the baby regain any weight lost after birth.” (5)
Mature human breastmilk contains nutrients and vitamins that are specifically designed to help infants grow and develop. (6) And not only does it have the perfect combination of the good stuff, it’s delivered in a liquid that is just right for infants to digest. (7)
What’s really cool about breastmilk is that the composition changes with your baby’s age, and it changes from feeding to feeding and within each feeding. The amount of fat, lactose, and vitamins vary from morning to night and from the beginning of a nursing session (in the foremilk) to the end (in the hindmilk). (8)
Once your child begins to wean, your milk changes yet again – this is called “involutional breastmilk.” “Involutional milk is characterized by low lactose content and high concentrations of protein, fat, and sodium.”(9) But what I find most extraordinary about breastmilk is that the amount of antibodies actually increases during the weaning process: your body helps give your child an extra immunological boost before your nursing relationship ends and your child stops getting maternal antibodies through breastmilk. (10)
Today’s post was only a brief overview of each type of milk. In the remaining posts in this series, I will present more information on the different types of milk and their special properties. Stay tuned over the next several weeks, I will be posting more on breastmilk’s composition and taste.
*What do you think breastmilk tastes like? Leave feedback in the comments and I will post your thoughts (with a link to your site) in the last post of this series.
*I am also looking for breastfeeding pictures to include with each post. If you have one for possible inclusion, please email me (click on the “contact” link at the top of this page).
*(@TasteLikeCrazy) Also, omg I just used Twitter slang. Tom is going to make so much fun of me.
(1) Prentice, Ann, “Constituents of Human Milk,” http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F174e/8F174E04.htm
(2) Hamosh, Margit, PhD, “Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother’s Milk,” http://www.asklenore.info/breastfeeding/additional_reading/mysteries.html
(3) “Stem cells could be the secret reason why breast is best,” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stem-cells-could-be-the-secret-reason-why-breast-is-best-1825558.html
(7) “The Qualities of Breastmilk,” http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Sharing_Center/CA/CAquality_breastmilk_E.pdf
(8) http://www.llli.org/FAQ/foremilk.html; see also Constituents of Human Milk
(9) Constituents of Human Milk
(10) http://www.kellymom.com/store/freehandouts/extended_bf_factsheet.pdf; see also http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/1/1
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"What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 1"
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