What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 4
“What Does a Boob Taste Like?”
This is the fourth in a series of posts inspired by a strange Google search: “What does a boob taste like?” I have interpreted that query to mean “what does breastmilk taste like,” because really, isn’t that much more interesting?
In the first post, I presented an overview of the four different types of breastmilk: colostrum, transitional milk, mature milk, and involutional milk. The second post and third post contained additional information on the composition of colostrum and mature milk respectively. This post presents information on transitional and involutional milk.*
If you have an opinion on what breastmilk tastes like, please leave a comment and I will post your thoughts (with a link to your site) in the last post as well. 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).
As its name implies, transitional breastmilk is the milk you produce while your body transitions from colostrum to mature milk. (1) A woman may produce transitional milk for up to two weeks after childbirth, longer if she gives birth prematurely. (2) While colostrum is hormonally driven, transitional milk marks the beginning of breastmilk’s supply/demand production – a mother’s “breasts are stimulated to produce transitional milk by breastfeeding her baby regularly, about every 2 hours.” (3)
Transitional milk is really just a mixture of colostrum and mature milk. It has high levels of lipids necessary “for growth, brain development, and salt synthesis[,]” proteins needed for nutrition and blood sugar regulation, fats and lactose for calories, energy, brain development, and retinal function, and water-soluble vitamins. (4)
When I researched this post, I looked up the definition of “involution.” The results were pretty interesting:
1) “entanglement; a spiraling inwards; intricacy”;
2) “when something turns in upon itself”;
3) “Involution of an organ is the shrinking or return to a former size.”
That third definition is closest to the involution of breastfeeding, which is what happens when your child stops nursing. When you are pregnant, your breast tissue changes, enabling your breasts to produce milk. When your breastfeeding relationship ends, your breasts will revert back to their pre-pregnant state. (5)
Not only will the actual structure of your breasts change, but the composition of your breastmilk will change too. (6) Involutional milk has a lower lactose content than mature milk, but higher levels of protein, fat, and sodium. (7) But what is most amazing to me about the weaning process, is that “some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration . . . during the weaning process.” (8) It’s like our bodies know to give our children an extra boost of goodness! Amazing.
Because your milk changes for the benefit of your child while you wean, it is better to make weaning a gradual, rather than an abrupt, process. Abruptly weaning will deprive your child of these important nutrients and antibodies. (9)
In the final post in this series, I will finally answer the question “what does breastmilk taste like” from a personal standpoint (mine and the readers who commented)!
*Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of information on either transitional or involutional milk. There are either very few studies on them, or the studies are not readily available online or in the library books I found on the shelves. If you have resources with more information on either stage of breastmilk, I would appreciate it.
(2) As noted in my earlier post on colostrum, mothers of premature infants continue to make breastmilk that has the qualities of colostrum and transitional breastmilk for a much longer period – up to six months. Hamosh, Margit, PhD, “Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother’s Milk,” http://www.asklenore.info/breastfeeding/additional_reading/mysteries.html
(3) “How Does Milk Production Work,” http://www.kellymom.com/bf/supply/milkproduction.html; http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,ue5267,00.html
(4) http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,ue5267,00.html; Hamosh, Margit, PhD, “Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother’s Milk,” http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/breastfeedingoverview.htm
(5) Langley-Evans, Simon, Nutrition: A Lifespan Approach at 105, http://books.google.com/books?id=nxejlilBot4C&pg=PT117&lpg=PT117&dq=involutional+milk&source=bl&ots=jpWibPxJx5&sig=ya548GngQXHpw6Er3Cjc1efwHDo&hl=en&ei=0oBKS9y9IZPCNej9yZAJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CCQQ6AEwBjgK#v=onepage&q=involutional%20milk&f=false
(6) Nutrition: A Lifespan Approach at 105
(7) Prentice, Ann, “Constituents of Human Milk,” http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food/8F174e/8F174E04.htm
(8) Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet (citations omitted), http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/ebf-benefits.html
(9) Nutrition: A Lifespan Approach at 105
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"What Breastmilk Tastes Like, Part 4"
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