Breast milk

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Two 25 ml samples from a woman. Left front milk that flows when the breast is full, right after milk that flows when the breast is empty.

Breast milk is produced by women as baby food . It is a yellowish-white secretion from the mammary glands in the female breast . Apart from certain ingredients, the composition of breast milk or human milk largely corresponds to the milk of other mammals .

Breast milk is produced in increased amounts around 24 to 48 hours after birth ( lactation ). The diet of the human infant with the breast during lactation is as breastfeeding designated or chest diet, ending as weaning or "weaning". In animals, the same processes are known as suckling and weaning .

The term

An infant is breastfed from the mother's breast.

The word mother's milk ( lac maternum ) is quite new and only came into general use in connection with breastfeeding campaigns in the 18th century to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children themselves instead of handing them over to a wet nurse . Breast milk is subordinate to the term human milk (from Middle High German vrouwenmilch ), which also stands for the milk of strange mothers. In the past, the word women's milk ( lac muliebre ) was used.

Physiological aspects

The milk penetration can be a bit painful. A possible problem is milk congestion , which can be alleviated by relaxation and rest, frequent breastfeeding and also stroking, pumping or cooling with quark. In the first weeks after birth, the uterus (responds uterus ) with aftermath of the breastfeeding process. These are initially painful, but far less than labor pains. They help the uterus to contract and thus regress.


Compared to cow's milk, breast milk contains

Ingredients / 100 ml human cow sheep goat horse
Water [g] 87.2 87.5 82.7 86.6 90.1
Carbohydrates [g] 7.0 4.7 6.3 3.9 5.9
Fat [g] 4.0 3.5-4.0 5.3 3.7 1.5
Protein [g] 1-1.5 3.5 4.6 4.2 2.1
Trace elements [g] 0.3 0.7 0.9 0.8 0.4
Calorific value [kcal] 70 64-68 86 65 43
Calorific value [kJ] 294 268-285 361 273 180
Potassium [mg] 47 141 182 181 64
Sodium [mg] 14th 45 30th 30th 11.9
Ratio of potassium to sodium 3.4 3.0 6.1 6.0 5.4
Calcium [mg] 33 116 183 127 110
Magnesium [mg] 3 12 11 14th 9
Ratio of calcium to magnesium 11 10 16.6 9.1 12.2
Iron [µg] 58 59 100 50 65
Phosphorus [mg] 15th 92 115 109 54

With a targeted diet, many potentially valuable ingredients (e.g. omega fatty acids, CLA, minerals (selenium), vitamins ( folic acid )), the amount of milk and milk properties (e.g. color) can be influenced.

Breast milk is richer in fat and protein when a boy is born than when a girl is born. Conversely, there is evidence that female newborns receive more milk.

Antibodies and defense-promoting enzymes

Breast milk also contains:

Their share in colostrum is particularly high :

Antibodies and defense enzymes
in colostrum and breast milk
ingredient in 100 ml of colostrum in 100 ml of mature breast milk
Immunoglobulin A 600 mg 80 mg
Immunoglobulin G 80 mg 30 mg
Immunoglobulin M 125 mg 30 mg
Lysozyme 370 mg 240 mg
Lactoferrin 580 mg 200 mg

The enzymes lysozyme and lactoferrin are now also added to some bottle foods. The amount of leukocytes measured in the colostrum varies greatly from study to study and is around 2000–3200 macrophages and 200–300 lymphocytes per mm³. During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, the proportion of leukocytes decreases significantly; after 3 months, around 40% of the original concentration is still measured.

Regulation of milk production

The milk production is regulated exclusively by the demand, which the body perceives through the irritation of the nipples (sucking on the nipple leads to the release of oxytocin from the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland). Alleged means to increase or decrease have at most an effect on the milk flow reflex, but not on the amount of milk produced.


The composition of breast milk is different in the first days and weeks than later, according to the infant's age-dependent needs . The organism of a newborn is prepared for the delay of 1 to 2 days after birth. Frequent putting on is very important in the first few days as it stimulates milk production. During this time, the newborn will drink the first milk, colostrum, which still looks little like milk, but is yellow and thicker. This milk is particularly rich in substances that stimulate the immune system and thus protects the newborn from diseases. The yellow color is due to the high proportion of carotenes .


Fresh breast milk is particularly important for the nutrition of premature babies , as the organism itself is often unable to provide enough antioxidants to scavenge free radicals . Increased free radicals stemming from the intravenous feeding and blood transfusions required in premature infants make them more susceptible to infection .

The calcium contained in breast milk is important for the formation of bones and tooth material.

It is not yet known what the attraction of breast milk to infants is based on; in this regard, it has only been proven that some of the aromatic substances that the mother ingested through food pass into breast milk.

Alternatives to breast milk

At various times the idea developed that either colostrum alone or breast milk in general were less beneficial to the development of the infant than animal milk , porridges or man-made baby food . The silence was considered unpleasant to debilitating, time consuming or not socially acceptable.

With the development of infant formula made from milk powder , manufacturers, especially Nestlé , began to advertise infant formula ( Formula ) with statements that made the products appear as the more modern and healthier diet for toddlers. In developing countries in particular, where the drinking water required to mix bottle formula made from milk powder was often of poor quality, feeding with instant food could lead to serious illnesses in infants.

Infant formulas generally contain the most important nutrients ( macronutrients ) in sufficient quantities, but infant formulas in particular can only fulfill some of the functions of breast milk. Breast milk contains a large number of messenger substances and micronutrients (trace elements) that cannot be artificially replicated.


Expressed breast milk should be consumed within 6 hours at room temperature. Like any unpasteurized fresh milk, it can be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 5 days (at 4  ° C ), as the bacterial load increases the longer it is stored. It can be frozen at −20 ° C, but it loses most of its antioxidants in the process. Breast milk can be kept for 6 months when frozen. Frozen breast milk is best thawed in the refrigerator overnight, but should then be consumed on the same day. As a rule, fresh breast milk has only a very faint odor. After two months of freezing, however, a metallic-fishy odor can be detected with sweaty and rancid notes. The smell notes of greasy, butter and hay intensify somewhat. These changes are primarily due to lipolysis and oxidation processes. The oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids ( linoleic acid ) plays a crucial role. As a countermeasure, it has been suggested to store breast milk free of oxygen or at temperatures even lower than −20 ° C. However, such measures can hardly be implemented in private households. Briefly heating the milk to over 82 ° C immediately after expressing it, followed by freezing it, deactivates the lipase. A large part of the immune substances is lost, but the milk treated in this way is still considered to be better than the artificial baby food.

See also

Web links

Commons : Breast Milk  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: The baby book at Wikibooks  - learning and teaching materials
Wiktionary: Breast milk  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  2. Barbara Duden: History in Stories: A historical reading book.
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  6. Helmuth Vorherr: Human Lactation and Breast Feeding. In: Bruce L. Larson (Ed.): The Mammary Gland / Human Lactation. A Comprehensive Treatise. Volume 4: The Mammary Gland, Human Lactation, Milk Synthesis. Academic Press, New York, 1978, ISBN 0-12-436704-6 , p. 227.
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    Antiinfective Properties of Human Milk . In: The Journal of Nutrition . tape
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  8. GM Hendricks, M. Guo: Bioactive components in human milk. In: Mingruo Guo (Ed.): Human Milk Biochemistry and Infant Formula Manufacturing Technology. Elsevier, 2014, ISBN 978-1-84569-724-2 , p. 37, pp. 33-54; Esmat Aly, Gaspar Ros, Carmen Frontela: Structure and Functions of Lactoferrin as Ingredient in Infant Formulas. In: Journal of Food Research. Volume 2, Issue 4, 2013 ( abstract ).
  9. ^ CW Smith, AS Goldman: The Cells of Human Colostrum. In: Pediatric Research. Volume 2, 1968, pp. 103-109 ( abstract ); Swarma Rekha Bhat: Nutrition. Normal Nutrition and Malnutrition. In: Swarma Rekha Bhat (Ed.): Achar's Textbook of Pediatrics. 4th edition. Universities Press, Hyderabad 2009, p. 37; FC Ho, RL Wong, JW Lawton: Human colostral and breast milk cells. A light and electron microscopic study. In: Acta Pediatr Scand. Volume 68, Issue 3, May 1979, pp. 389-396, PMID 443039 .
  10. P. Bhaskaram, V. Reddy: Bactericidal activity of human milk leukocytes. In: Acta Pediatr Scand. Volume 70, Issue 1, January 1981, pp. 87-90, PMID 7211381 .
  11. GD Georgeson et al .: Antioxidant enzyme activities are decreased in preterm infants and in neonates born via caesarean section . In: European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology . tape 103 , no. 2 , 2002, ISSN  0301-2115 , p. 136-139 , PMID 12069735 .
  12. B. Gaydas et al .: Antioxidant vitamin levels in term and preterm infants and their relation to maternal vitamin status . In: Archives of Medical Research . tape 33 , no. 3 , 2002, ISSN  0188-4409 , p. 276-280 , PMID 12031634 .
  13. Science award for research on the aroma profile of breast milk. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, accessed on January 7, 2013 .
  14. Monica Kalt: "Nestlé Kills Babies" - Does Nestlé Kill Babies? ( Memento from December 9, 2012 in the web archive ) ( RTF ).
  15. Overview of the ingredients contained in breast milk and ready-to-use food What is actually in breast milk? - What is actually in Formula? , Midwifery Forum 6/2014.
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  18. Ruth Lawrence: Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. 6th edition, 2005.