Lactation Consultants and Nutrition
There are several protein and non-protein nitrogen compounds that are found in mature breast milk that provide a growing infant with many of the important building blocks of life and good health. Many of the proteins found in mature breast milk are enzymes used to promote digestion or hormones used for growth. When we think of nutrition, we usually think about grown ups, but what about the nutrition for our newborns. We decided to ask a lactation consultant to give us some insight about baby nutrition.
Whey proteins are prominately found in human milk compared to casein proteins that are found in cow milk. There are specific functions that whey proteins perform in the human body. The whey protein, alpha-lactalbumin, regulates milk synthesis and binds with pathogens. This protein has been found to kill cancer cells in vitro. Lactoferrin is a protein that assists with iron transport and absorption. This protein specifically competes with bacteria to bind with iron and has antibacterial properties. The body uses latoferrin for the development and growth of the important immune cells- B- and T-cell lymphocytes.
Gastrointestinal non pathogenic flora is also promoted to grow with the help of whey proteins. Lactoferrin specifically helps promote the growth of lactobacilli. Secretroy immunoglobulin A (sIgA) is a protein that the body uses to coat mucosal surfaces to prevent pathogens from adhering or penetrating the mucosal lining in the gastrointestinal tract. The protein, lysozyme, increases in breast milk over time and is used to digest pathogens without triggering inflammation.
There are over 40 enzymes that have been found in breast milk. All have been determined to aid in the digestion of milk and are considered compensatory digestive enzymes. The enzymes in breast milk have also been found to stimulate neonatal development. The enzyme, lipase, is used to digest fats by breaking down the fatty acid chains. The enzyme, amylase, digests polysaccharides,
Whey proteins also consist of growth factors, hormones and hormone-like substances. Epidermal growth factors found in breast milk help the gut and other tissues in the body to mature. Nerve growth factors help to heal the central nervous system from birth related injuries.