On the ride home, I finally finished the book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods. I started it when I was past my due date and haven't had time to return to it since Jadon's birth. Picking it up again, I was particularly interested in the breastfeeding chapter since I have recently entered breastfeeding mommahood. The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known, and I'm convinced that it's just about the best investment I can make in my son's current and future health.
This book exposed me to loads of interesting breastfeeding facts, some I already knew, and many I didn't. I decided to share a few of my favorites.
First, my body actually changes the composition of my milk as Jadon eats. As a baby starts eating, the milk is more watery. It can quench thirst if the baby feeds for only a few minutes. However, if the baby is really hungry, the longer he or she feeds, the more fatty the milk becomes. This will fill the baby up with a more satisfying meal.
Second, my body protects Jadon's from infection and sickness through breast milk, and through a process I never knew before:
The immunity breast milk provides is tailored, reflecting the unique ecology you and your baby share. Within hours of encountering a pathogen, you produce antibodies which pass to your baby through your milk. That's why it's natural for mothers to nuzzle, rub, kiss, and even lick their babies. You gather her germs with your mouth and skin, so that your breasts can make antibodies she needs (page 143).While I can't say I've ever had the urge to lick Jadon, I do find myself rubbing my nose on his adorable face many times throughout the day. To think this natural, loving gesture actually lends itself to protecting Jadon's body from getting sick! Amazing.
Third, the flavor of my breast milk is affected by what I eat. If I am adventurous with food while breastfeeding, Jadon's palate will be more broad. Babies who are exposed to more flavors may be less picky about food as they transition to solid foods. Nina Planck, the author, encourages mothers not to worry about their milk tasting "funny." In fact, she states that "advice to avoid strong or spicy foods is nonsense" (page 146).
Fourth, and last for now, 50 percent of the calories in breast milk come from fat. These fats are extremely important for the baby's brain development. Breastfed babies tend to have better intellectual, visual, and motor skills than their formula-fed peers. Furthermore, most of the fat in breast milk (60-80 percent!) comes from the woman's fat stores in her body, not from her most recent meal. This is one of the reasons that woman pack extra fat stores in their hips and thighs during pregnancy; they need the extra fat for feeding their baby. It's also the reason why breastfeeding mothers tend to return to their prepregnancy weight faster than women who do not breastfeed. Score!