Breastmilk is amazing!

 

The Science of Human Milk is pretty fantastic. There are hundreds of substances in Human Milk that feed our babies while helping them be healthy and grow optimally. In this article, to stimulate your interest, I am going to write about 4 wonderful components and then give you a link for you to find out more about them and other marvellous ingredients in Human Milk.

In each millilitre of milk there are up to a million cells, all the cells that are in our blood are in milk with the exception of Red Blood cells, and this is why human milk is commonly referred to as ‘White Blood’. In 2007 Australian scientists discovered that human milk contained Stem Cells, cells that when stimulated can change to become any tissue in the body such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells as well as many more, and which are used to help kids recover from chemotherapy treatment for Leukaemia. Scientists have found out, by studying animal studies, that after the baby animals drink their mother’s milk that contains stem cells too, these stem cells from the mothers can be later found in the baby animals’ brains! This is really brilliant as it helps us understand that the stem cells in our milk are probably going into our babies’ bodies and repairing and replacing any problems that occurred while they were being made in our wombs. Isn’t this so beautiful!

In each millilitre there are also up to a million microbes – bacteria, fungi and viruses – which are all friendly and needed to make the microbiome which helps us function properly. This Microbiome was only recently discovered as an Organ and it weights around 1 kilo in an adult. When our gut microbiome is healthy so is our brain and our well-being.  Interestingly our Human Milk not only contains perfect food for our babies but it also contains perfect food for all the microbes! Our milk contains over 200 different types of sugars, called ‘Human Milk Oligosaccharides’ or HMOs, most of which babies can’t absorb as food, but the microbes can! So not only does human milk feed the baby it also feeds the really important microbes to make our microbiomes. Recent research has also shown that these sugars help protect our babies from infections and diarrhoea and even constipation! So, sugars are good for babies when in human milk but not when part of sweets!!!

The next cool thing in milk is HAMLET which stands for this Human Alpha-lactoalbumin Made lethal to Tumor cells. This substance which is activated in the baby’s tummy can kill abnormal and cancer cells. Discovered in 1990’s, it is currently being tested for use as a medicine to fight cancer! And we can feed it to our babies. Super. So, like the stem cells, scientists think HAMLET can find any abnormal cell, attach to them and make them die, thus reducing the risk of our babies getting cancer. This fits with studies that find that babies who breastfeed suffer less from leukaemia and other childhood cancers.

The last thing going to talk about is Oxytocin which is contained in our milk. This is often called the ‘feel good hormone’ and is the hormone that we produce when we fall in Love. Babies both drink the oxytocin and produce it themselves on feeding, allowing them to feel love through the milk and makes them feel safe and protected. It is really important for babies to feel safe. When they feel this way, they grow up to become confidence and happy adults. When a mother breastfeeds, she also gets a rush of oxytocin into her own body and is filled with a feeling of contentedness and love for her baby. This helps mums bond with their babies. When we examine the science of oxytocin, we see that it helps to reduce stress in our bodies by lowering Cortisol, the stress hormone, which if elevated all the time can be very toxic and damaging to both the baby and the mother. It also increases production of opioids in the baby, which are pain relieving substances like morphine! So if our baby gets hurt or is getting vaccinated breastfeeding is a great way to help them manage their pain.

So, if you are interested in more and have a computer, link into this cool infographic all about these and other cool components of human milk:

https://www.human-milk.com/science.html

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more or having me talk to a group you feel would like to learn more about the Marvels of Human Milk.

Sarah.s.brennan@nuigalway.ie

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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