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Something I don't understand about breastmilk...

(9 Posts)
lurcherlover Sun 19-Dec-10 13:25:09

I understand that breastmilk is better than formula because of the antibodies and benefits for the baby's immune system. I know too that it's a safer way of feeding baby as there is no danger of inadequate sterilisation etc. But leaving those benefits aside for a moment, is it always nutritionally superior? I see how it is in a woman who gets an excellent diet, eats her 5-a-day, oily fish once a week etc - but what about in a woman who lives on chip butties and mars bars and never goes near a piece of fruit, or one whose diet is otherwise nutritionally inadequate? I know women on such diets can still produce plenty of milk - hence women in times of famine can still feed their babies - but is it as nutritionally complete as formula in those circumstances? Where do all the vitamins etc (that are added to forumla) come from if the woman isn't consuming enough?

(I have no hidden agenda here BTW - I am breastfeeding my 7 week old son, but that has nothing to do with it really - I'm just genuinely curious about the properties of the milk and if there are ever circumstances in which formula might be nutritionally superior - and if not, how the breastmilk manages to be so nutritious even when the woman eats badly).

Doobies Sun 19-Dec-10 13:28:32

Hmmm. Will watch with interest. I was to,d by nct bf counsellor that bm is synthesised from blood so the nutrients are coming from the womanise body tissue iyswim.

Doobies Sun 19-Dec-10 13:29:11

Sorry woman not womanise. Stupid iPad.

MoonUnitAlpha Sun 19-Dec-10 14:13:55

I guess you'd have to be really malnourished for your body to have none of that particular vitamin - nutrients will go to the milk before they go to the mother I guess, so if there's a limit amount of iron etc in the mother's diet, it'll all go into milk production and the mother's body will end up deficient?

TruthSweet Sun 19-Dec-10 14:20:25

If your diet is nutritionally deficient then your body digests itself/uses up any available stores (i.e. calcium from bones, LCFA from brain cells etc).

Kellymom has info here and here and l on diet & bfing.

Bubbles1066 Sun 19-Dec-10 14:21:13

Yes, I'd always assumed the vitamins will go into the milk first and the woman will suffer... stores can be taken from bones etc too for the milk, again at the detriment to the woman. A friend of mine ended up very vitamin D deficient after tandem BF'ing for a long time as presumably the little she got went to the babies first. So I would think BM would be fine unless a woman was seriously malnourished and all stores had been used up. She might suffer though.

mousesma Sun 19-Dec-10 14:27:13

Yes diet has no effect on milk quality except in cases of extreme malnutrition.

There are some that believe that diet can introduce irritants to BM which might make a baby unsettled i.e. chilli, caffeine, dairy, citrus truits but it doesn't affect nutritional quality.

organiccarrotcake Sun 19-Dec-10 15:49:02

If a woman is short of calcium in her diet it will leach from her bones - but - when she stops bfing her body goes into overdrive re-calcifying them, usually/often more than before having the baby, which is why women who bf are at a lower risk of developing osteoporosis.

Bear in mind also that the forms of the vitamins and minerals are usually more readily processed by the baby's body from bm than fm. While iron is iron is iron - it's an element - it's in compound in formula and bm. The form in bm is easier for the body to process than the form in formula. So what's taken from the mother is extremely efficient.

Finally it's very rare for someone to totally be missing out on vitamins and while in some extremes this is a problem, it's very rare and is likely to already making the mother ill. For instance women being totally covered for culteral reasons being short of vitamin D. Tandem nursing won't make you short of a specific vitamin but if you're short anyway it will possibly make that worse.

Porcelain Sun 19-Dec-10 16:21:12

Also bm contains nutrients better suited and easier to digest for a human baby (sugars, proteins etc) and added enzymes so more nutrients are absorbed.

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