Mother's milk, or rather, breast milk, is a highly nutritious food naturally produced by pregnant and nursing women. It has helped mothers nourish their young for centuries. Breast milk contains powerful ingredients that help babies grow fast and strong. Often touted as an 'elixir of life', science has shown that mother's milk contains various antioxidants and antibodies that boosts an infant's immune system. It can even protect them from certain illnesses. But just what exactly is inside breast milk that makes it impossible to replicate in a lab? Here's all you need to know about the secret behind mother's milk. The Contents of Human Breast Milk Breast milk generally contains around 87% water, 6.9% to 7.2% carbohydrates, 0.8% to 0.9% proteins, 3% to 5% fats, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive substances. It can yield up to 60 to 75 calories per 100 ml of liquid. However, it is also important to note that these are estimations. The content of breast milk can change depending on certain factors. These include the mother's diet, environment, and pregnancy age. For instance, colostrum (early breast milk) has more proteins and immunoglobulins than mature milk (post-colostrum milk). On the other hand, post-colostrum milk contains a higher percentage of carbohydrates. But all in all, here's a sufficient break-down of the macro-, micro-nutrients, and other essential compounds found in human breast milk. Macronutrients Carbohydrates The main form of carbohydrate present in human breast milk is lactose. Colloquially called 'milk sugar', lactose is one of the most important nutrients for a baby. Lactose provided babies the main source of energy for growth in the form of glucose and galactose when digested. It also helps in the absorption of various essential minerals like calcium and magnesium. Lactose may even have a prebiotic effect. This assists with the cultivation of important beneficial bacteria in the baby's intestines. Breast milk also contains more than 30 types of oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are also a type of carbohydrate, normally found in plants. Now, while humans can't digest them, oligosaccharides assist with gut health. This is achieved by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In turn helping regulate appetite, preventing diarrhoea, and boosting immunity. Protein Mother's milk protein generally includes casein and whey proteins, which help support a baby's physical development. Whey consists of alpha-lactalbumin, lysozyme, lactoferrin, and immunoglobulin A. It makes up between 80% to 50% of the protein found in breastmilk. When whey is digested in your baby's stomach, it breaks down into amino acids. These are important building blocks for your baby's organs, blood, bones, muscles, tissues, nerves, etc. It may also assist with fortifying their immune system. Additionally, whey contains antibodies, lactoferrin, and lysozyme. These will your baby fight off infections and diseases. The casein is breast milk is harder to digest than whey and offers fewer nutritional value. Fats Mother's milk is rich in lipids (a type of fat), which make up half of the calories (energy) that your baby gets from your breast milk. Along with important fatty acids, these lips are essential for the growth of your baby and the development of their brain and vision. Other important fats contained in breast milk include triglycerides (energy), cholesterol (brain, nerve and heart), and DHA (brain, vision and nervous system). Scientists also believe that fats play a key role in regulating your baby's appetite. This helps trigger them to stop nursing when they're full, and satisfying them longer between feedings. Micronutrients Vitamins Just like with macro-nutrients, breast milk contains all the vitamins your baby could possibly want. Vitamins which are necessary for the health of your baby's eyes, skin and bones. The ones found in breast milk include A, D, E, D, K, C, B6 and Folate. However, as nutritious as breast milk is, your doctor may recommend prenatal supplements (usually vitamin D and folic acid) to a nursing or pregnant mother, especially if they're vegans or vegetarians (or have other dietary restrictions). This may also be the case as well with preemie babies, where your doctor may prescribe vitamins to help rectify any nutritional deficiencies the baby may have as a result of their condition. Minerals Just like vitamins, minerals are important for supporting your baby's growth and development. Minerals help with digestion, blood clotting, healing, blood pressure, tissue synthesis, heart health, etc. The minerals present in human breast milk include iron, zinc, calcium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, selenium\u2014all that a newborn needs to grow up strong and healthy. Various Bioactive Compounds Immunoglobulins (Antibodies) Easily one of the most important things in mother's milk, is immunoglobulins (specifically Secretory Immunoglobulins or IgA). Immunoglobulins are the antibodies help boost your baby's immune system. It is thanks to this 'secret ingredient' that breast milk is often thought of as your baby's first 'vaccine'. It helps protect them from various diseases and illnesses that could otherwise prove fatal for a baby. Things like the common cold, vomiting, diarrhoea, ear infections, or others that can seriously jeopardise their health. When your baby drinks breast milk, the IgA coats your baby's lungs and intestines. This seals them and prevents germs from entering the body and bloodstream\u2014making breast milk the first line of defence for your baby against COVID-19. Hormones Hormones are essential for the biological functioning of various biological process in the body. Everything from metabolism, stress and pain responses, blood pressure regulation and growth and development. Here are some of the hormones detected in human breast milk. Scientists still have trouble understanding how exactly they influence infant growth and development and much of research is still inconclusive, but here are their best guesses. \tProlactin: by-product of breastfeeding \tThyroid hormones: may protect the baby's thyroid \tEpidermal growth factors: gut protection \tBeta-Endorphins: help babies deal with stress \tErythropoietin: stimulate production of red blood cells \tCortisol: unknown, perhaps increases infant's sensitivity to cortisol \tLeptin: controls appetite, weight gain and energy expenditure Enzymes Baby organs are still young and may not be able to process nutrition as effectively as an adult. Their pancreas and liver, for instance, do not fully mature until 2 years old. But breast milk contains various essential enzymes that aid the digestion of fats and proteins, as well as provide an immune boost. This helps take off some of the work that they have to do on their own to properly process the nutrition they consume. Here are just a few of the important ones: \tAmylase: helps with carbohydrate digestion \tLipase: helps with fat digestion \tProtease; helps with protein digestion \tLactoferrin: helps with iron absorption, kills bacteria \tLysozyme: antibiotic Probiotics Aside from the prebiotic oligosaccharides that nourish the infant's beneficial gut bacteria, mother's milk is also a probiotic. Breast milk contains a healthy amount of microbiota (i.e. Lactobacillus) that actually help introduce bifidobacteria in the baby's intestines. These beneficial microorganisms assist in the digestion of non-digestible food carbohydrates. This in turn produces certain kinds of micronutrients for the body, even stimulating the immune system. But most of all, they help stamp out any harmful bacteria that has somehow made it into the digestive system. This will help protect your baby from infections and illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract. Mother's Milk Is All Your Baby Needs Mother's milk is always the best option for your baby. It's natural, nutritious and protective. Breast milk contains all the necessary ingredients that can support your baby's growth, development and health. And science has yet to be able to replicate something that can even come close to it. The best they could do is infant formula, which although has helped raised millions of infants around the world, still falls short in terms of nutrition. Even now, formula-fed babies are often overweight, struggle with gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea, and are more prone to infections and allergies. The contents of mother's milk make it so that your baby is not only sufficiently nourished, but also guarded against hundreds of deadly illnesses that could potentially be fatal. Making it truly the 'elixir of life' that every newborn needs. Mummies, don\u2019t miss out on your chance to get limited Motherhood.com.my vouchers today by casting your Motherhood Choice Awards 2022 votes\u00a0here! For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to\u00a0Motherhood Story!