This is a recycled post from a li.st I made in the middle of night a few weeks ago, when the 'Troll just refused to go back to sleep.
I was thinking of writing something in response to an article in Aftenposten yesterday about breastfeeding and paternity leave, but it'll have to wait. I'm no Breast is Best evangelist by any stretch of the imagination, but breast milk is pretty bloody amazing.
1. You can make human out of it
Literally *everything* my son needed to more than double in weight and grow 12 cm taller his first six months was in the breast milk produced by my wife. My son takes all these essential proteins and sugars and nutrients and builds more human out of them.
2. Breast milk is absolutely unique to the mother and baby
My son’s breast milk is essentially tailor-made for him, based on his needs and my wife's condition
3. Breast milk follows a circadian rhythm
Milk produced at night has more of the hormones (specifically melatonin and tryptophan) that help him get to sleep.
4. Immune protection is dynamic
My wife’s areola absorbs my son’s spit, her body reacts to any infections he might have and she transfers the relevant and necessary protective antibodies back to him through the milk she produces.
5. He eats what she eats
He’s started weaning so eats pretty much what we eat now as proper solids, but in his first 4 months on breast milk alone, he was also getting a small and safe taste of whatever my wife had been eating. If she’d eaten a particularly spicy curry he’d have known about it. Being exposed to lots of tastes is going to help him tolerate and enjoy different foods in the future. Which is important because I want him to love food as much as I do.
Most other mammals tend to have less conspicuous mammary glands that protrude only while actually filling with milk. Only women, probably for reasons of sexual selection and visible signs of health and fertility, have evolved unusually large (relative to body size) constantly protruding breasts. (I hadn’t really thought about/known this until I was reading up on references for this list!
- Engler AC., et al. (2011) Breastfeeding may improve nocturnal sleep and reduce infantile colic: Potential role of breast milk melatonin. Eur J Ped.
- Hassiotou F., et al. (2013) Maternal and infant infections stimulate a rapid leukocyte response in breastmilk. Clin Transl Immunology.
- Hausnera H., et al. (2008) Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Phys & Beh.