How Much Breastmilk Does a Baby Need to Get Antibodies

Gone are the days when mothers would hand over their babies to nursing maids. Many mothers prefer to breastfeed their infants, and reasons go beyond establishing a strong mother-child bond. The only problem they face is knowing how much breastmilk does a baby need to get antibodies? Extensive research has established the numerous benefits of breastfeeding, for example, oral development as a result of the sucking motion and the passing of antibodies from the mother to the child through the milk.

Mothers are busy, however, whether as homemakers, part-time workers or full-time nine-to-five workers. In cases, like this breastfeeding becomes difficult and oftentimes stressful as mothers try to balance their work lives with and the expectations many set upon them as mothers.

A balance can be found, however, and it lies in answering the question: how much breastmilk does a baby need to get antibodies? Getting an answer to this will help many mothers plan their days in order to give their babies the best.

Antibodies in Breastmilk

Antibodies are proteins produced in our bodies that fight specific disease-causing organisms. Antibodies are basically our bodies’ defense against germs that make us ill. An infant’s system is not developed enough to produce enough antibodies to mount a good defense, and that is why children under the age of five are disease-prone.

While in the uterus, a baby gets their antibodies from the mother’s body through the placenta. After birth this source is cut-off and babies need to get antibodies through their mother’s milk. A mother’s milk contains a lot of useful and necessary antibodies that cannot be found in baby formula, and the antibodies in milk change to give babies more protection when they are sick, something that cannot be done by baby formula.

There are five main types of antibodies found in milk: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE. IgA is the most abundant antibody found in breastmilk, especially secretory IgA found in the digestive and respiratory systems of mothers. Secretory IgA is helpful in many ways:

  • It targets germs that a baby comes into contact with in their normal environment. The mother shares the baby’s environment and secretes antibodies against the same germs, which she passes down to her baby.
  • Secretory IgA produced by the mother does not target the useful bacteria found in the baby’s digestive system. This means that the baby gets to grow good bacteria in their system.
  • Secretory IgA does not cause inflammation when fighting diseases. This is because it does not hurt the delicate mucus membranes found throughout the baby’s body while destroying bad germs.

How Much Breastmilk is Needed?

Breastfeeding patterns change as the baby grows older, and many mothers introduce solid foods to their babies after they reach six months of age. When exclusively breastfeeding, a baby will drink up to 800 ml or 28 fluid ounces of milk. After the introduction of solid foods, a baby will drink up to 18 fluid ounces or 500ml of milk, which makes up half their calorie intake for the day. By 18 months the baby consumes up to 7 fluid ounces or 200ml, about 30% of their daily caloric intake.

Statistics support the importance of breastmilk even after introduction of solid foods. Breastmilk caters for 43% of their protein, 60% of their vitamin C, 75% of their vitamin A, 94% of their vitamin B12 and 76% of their folate. It is important then that mothers endeavor to breastfeed their babies for as long as possible.

Breastfeeding Duration

The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed until their babies are above 2 years of age. However, this is not a set standard because different mothers have different abilities to breastfeed. Generally, most mothers breastfeed for the first six months and start introducing solid foods when the baby is beyond six months of age.

The nutrients from the food cannot replace the benefits of breastmilk and it is recommended that mothers breastfeed even after six months. Aside from protection from common infections like the flu and ENT infections, research shows that babies who get this kind of care are protected against diseases like lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, type 1 diabetes, type 2, diabetes, and obesity.

This is so even when mothers do not produce as much milk as others, a situation that discourages most mothers from breastfeeding. As a matter of fact, research shows that less milk contains a higher concentration of these antibodies.

Breastfeeding Pattern

It is important that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life. However, a lot of mothers introduce formula early on. If this is the case, then it is recommended that a mom breastfeeds exclusively for at least a month, after which she can introduce the formula.

Even after introduction of formula, and eventually solid foods, a mother should try to nurse her baby part-time. This is successfully done by introducing a regular and stable breastfeeding schedule, a process called partial weaning. This is a preferred option for mothers who do not want to keep expressing their milk or who have no opportunity to pump due to their work schedules.

Partial weaning is very successful if the mother breastfeeds only when she is with the baby. This means that a mother exclusively breastfeeds in the evening after work, during the night, and on weekends. No bottles should be used when the mother is with the baby as this might create breast-rejection when the baby prefers the faster pace at which milk jets out of the bottle. It also reduces the chances of the mother’s milk supply from decreasing due to infrequent breastfeeding.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to breastfeeding because of the different circumstances different mothers face. There is a pattern that works for every mom out there and it is important to find one that is most comfortable for you and the best for your baby. This way, your baby will grow up healthy and happy, which goes a long way in making you happy and healthy.

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