As well as being the most natural way to feed infants, breast milk provides the best source of nutrition. Further, research has discovered that breast milk contains many biological components that help to strengthen the developing immune system.
Breast milk is a complex substance, containing the perfect nutritional mixture needed for growth and development including brain and eye development. It provides the best type of nutrition for infants. Breast milk also contains many other unique properties that researchers have found have no nutritional values but exhibit biological and physiological functions which strengthen the developing immune system. These biological and physiological properties are unique to breast milk and some of these are:
Breast Milk Oligosaccharides
Breast milk oligosaccharides are unique and complex components of human breast milk and only traces have been found in the milk of any other species. Being the third largest solid component in human breast milk, these oligosaccharides selectively feed and stimulate the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gastrointestinal system of the infant. This in turn leads to the development of a healthy gut and immune system.
Antibodies which can also be known as immunoglobulins, consist of 5 main forms IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, IgE. These protective proteins play an important physiological role in the functioning of the immune system as they identify and neutralise foreign objects. An infant starts to acquire antibodies through the placenta prior to birth, however after birth an infant acquires these antibodies through breast milk.
White Blood Cells
White blood cells can also be known as leukocytes. These are cells which form part of the immune system. Their main role is to help to defend the body against foreign materials. Colostrum (the breast milk received in the first few days after birth) contains high amounts of white blood cells which are important for the development of the infant’s immune system.