Magical Mammaries? How Do My Breasts Know What My Baby Needs?

If you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby, you probably already know all of the advantages of the biological elixir that is breast milk. It’s linked to improved immune responses, higher IQs, lower rates of obesity…the list goes on. 

What you may not know is that breast milk changes on a daily basis to provide your baby (no one else’s) the precise dose of nutritional and immunological ingredients she needs at the exact moment she needs it. I know. I know. It sounds crazy, right? How could breast milk possibly have insight into a baby’s biological needs? It doesn’t even have a college degree!

Need scientific evidence that breast milk has some nearly magical properties?

Exhibit A

When you first begin a nursing session, your breast produces a thin foremilk that quenches your baby’s thirst before transforming into a creamier, fat-rich hindmilk that eases her hunger. 

Exhibit B

When your baby is sick, the concentration of some immunofactors in your breast milk increase…even if you’re not sick.

Exhibit C

When your baby’s saliva interacts with your breast milk, the chemical reaction results in hydrogen peroxide which inhibits the growth of certain nasty pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella spp.

How do my breasts know so much about what my baby needs?

If you’re like most new moms, it’s probably comforting to know that at least one part of your body knows what’s going on. No wonder people covet the breast! But your mammary glands can’t take all the credit. Believe it or not, your baby is probably passing secret messages via your nipples. Who knew breastfeeding was so full of mystery and intrigue?

Evidence seems to suggest that retrograde milk flow (fancy science jargon for baby backwash) delivers information to your immune system about baby’s nutritional and immunological needs. If your nursing baby is sick, pathogens will be mixed in with that saliva, delivering those into your nipple duct system as well. Immune molecules in your mammaries and your milk respond to these pathogens and protect your baby, whose own immune system is still developing.

Relax, mama. Your body really is a wonderland!

John Mayer probably had something else entirely on his mind when he crooned, “Your body is a wonderland.” But he was right on more levels than probably even he knew. Your magical body is capable of melting the fat in your derriere into breast milk and then transforming your breast milk hourly to meet the needs of a new human. That’s pretty incredible. So relax. There’s nothing to worry about. Your body knows exactly what it’s doing.