Everything You Should Know About Breast Milk

Everything You Should Know About Breast Milk

Breast milk is a liquid gold for newborns, a perfect blend of nutrients and antibodies designed by nature to give your baby the best possible start in life. But for new parents, navigating the world of breastfeeding can be confusing. This guide will unveil everything you need to know about breast milk, from its amazing properties to how it changes to meet your baby's growing needs.

We'll cover the stages of breast milk, how to ensure a healthy supply and address any concerns you might have about color, storage, and more. So, whether you're a breastfeeding pro or a brand new mama, this guide will equip you with all the knowledge you need to feel like a breastfeeding rockstar!

Advantages of Breast Milk Feeding for Babies

Breast milk is not just a way to feed your baby. It has many benefits for both you and your baby. Let's explore the advantages of breastfeeding that make it the best choice for infant nutrition.

1. Breast milk offers complete nutrition

Breast milk is a complete source of nutrition for babies. It has all the vital nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. These nutrients include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, all in the right balance for a growing baby. 

The proteins in breast milk are easy to digest and help build and repair cells. The fats in breast milk, like DHA, are essential for brain development and overall growth. Carbohydrates in breast milk, mainly lactose, provide energy for the baby. Breast milk also contains many vitamins, like vitamin A for vision and vitamin D for healthy bones. 

Breast milk is also rich in minerals like calcium for bone development and iron for red blood cell production. Overall, breast milk is a complete and balanced source of nutrition for babies. It has everything they need for healthy growth and development in their early stages of life.

2. Breast milk boosts immunity

Breast milk is renowned for its ability to boost a baby's immunity. It contains a variety of immune-boosting components, including antibodies, white blood cells, and enzymes, which help protect infants from infections and diseases. 

Antibodies in breast milk, such as secretory IgA, provide passive immunity, protecting the baby from infections until their immune system matures. This is supported by studies published in reputable journals like Pediatric Research, which have shown that breastfed infants have lower rates of respiratory, ear, and gastrointestinal infections compared to formula-fed infants. 

Lactoferrin, another immune-boosting compound in breast milk, helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses in the baby's gut. This is vital for maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora, which is essential for overall immunity and digestion.

3. Breast milk is easily digestible

Breast milk is not only rich in essential nutrients but also incredibly easy for babies to digest. Its composition is perfectly suited to the delicate digestive systems of infants, ensuring optimal absorption of nutrients and minimal strain on the digestive tract. 

The proteins in breast milk, such as whey and casein, are easily digestible, unlike the proteins in formula milk, which can be harder for babies to break down. This ease of digestion helps reduce the risk of digestive issues like constipation and colic, which are more common in formula-fed babies. 

The fats in breast milk are also easily digestible and provide a concentrated source of energy for the baby. These fats are essential for brain development and overall growth, and their easy digestibility ensures that the baby can efficiently absorb them.

4. Breast milk promotes brain development

Breast milk is not just beneficial for the body; it also plays a crucial role in promoting brain development in infants. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breast milk contains essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development.

These nutrients help in the growth of the brain and nervous system, potentially leading to better cognitive outcomes in the long run. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have higher IQ scores compared to formula-fed babies, highlighting the importance of breast milk in brain development.

5. Breast milk reduces the risk of allergies

Breast milk has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies in infants. It contains antibodies, immunoglobulins, and other immune-boosting components that help the baby's immune system develop and mature properly. Breast milk also contains prebiotics, which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby's gut, further supporting their immune system. 

Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of developing allergies, including allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and food allergies. For example, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding for at least four months was associated with a lower risk of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema in children. 

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding along with the introduction of complementary foods for at least the first year of life, to help reduce the risk of developing allergies. This recommendation is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

6. Breast milk prevents chronic diseases

Breastfeeding has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases later in life. Studies have shown that individuals who were breastfed as infants have a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood. 

Breast milk contains bioactive components that help regulate metabolism and promote healthy weight gain in infants, which may contribute to the reduced risk of obesity later in life. 

Additionally, breastfeeding has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure in adulthood, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The benefits of breastfeeding on long-term health highlight the importance of breastfeeding as the optimal choice for infant nutrition.

Advantages of Breast Milk Feeding for Mother

Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding for a mother:

7. Reduces Risk of Postpartum Depression

Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk of postpartum depression (PPD), a common condition that affects many new mothers. The act of breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone" or "bonding hormone." Oxytocin promotes feelings of relaxation, love, and attachment, which can help counteract the feelings of sadness and anxiety associated with PPD. 

Additionally, breastfeeding can provide mothers with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, boosting their self-esteem and confidence during a challenging time. The physical closeness and skin-to-skin contact involved in breastfeeding can also promote bonding between mother and baby, which is beneficial for both emotional and mental well-being.

8. Aids in Weight Loss

Breastfeeding can aid in weight loss for mothers after childbirth. During pregnancy, women naturally gain weight to support the growth and development of the baby. After childbirth, breastfeeding can help mothers lose some of this weight by burning extra calories. 

Producing breast milk requires energy, and breastfeeding mothers can burn up to 500 extra calories per day. This calorie expenditure, combined with healthy eating habits, can contribute to gradual weight loss over time. Additionally, the hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, can help the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size faster by causing contractions. 

9. Reduces Risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Breastfeeding is scientifically linked to a reduced risk of both breast and ovarian cancer in mothers. Breastfeeding reduces the total number of menstrual cycles a woman experiences over her lifetime, lowering the exposure of breast tissue to estrogen, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. 

Additionally, breastfeeding causes changes in breast cells that make them more resistant to mutations that can lead to cancer. Similarly, breastfeeding suppresses ovulation, reducing the exposure of the ovaries to potentially cancer-causing agents released during ovulation, thus lowering the risk of ovarian cancer.

10. Promotes Uterine Contractions

Breastfeeding promotes uterine contractions, helping the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. This process, known as involution, is crucial for postpartum recovery and reducing the risk of postpartum bleeding. The hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, stimulates these contractions.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), breastfeeding helps the uterus contract and return to its normal size more quickly, reducing the risk of excessive bleeding after childbirth.

11. Convenience and Cost-Effectiveness

Breast milk is always available and at the right temperature, making feeding easier and more convenient, especially during nighttime feedings. There's no need to prepare formula or wash bottles, saving time and effort. 

Breastfeeding is significantly cheaper than formula feeding. Formula can be expensive, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, depending on the brand and type. Breastfeeding eliminates the need to purchase formula, feeding bottles, and sterilizing equipment, resulting in substantial cost savings for families. 

Additionally, breastfeeding can reduce healthcare costs by lowering the risk of certain illnesses and infections in infants, leading to fewer doctor visits and hospitalizations. Overall, breastfeeding is not only convenient but also a cost-effective choice for feeding infants. 

While breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for both mother and baby, promoting bonding and long-term health, it is a personal choice, moms can always have the right to choose breastfeeding or not.

How to Store Breast Milk

Proper storage of breast milk is crucial to maintaining its nutritional value and ensuring its safety for your baby. Follow these guidelines to store breast milk safely: 

  1. Use Clean Containers: Use clean, sterilized containers specifically designed for storing breast milk. Avoid using regular bottles or bags that may not be suitable for storing breast milk.
  2. Label and Date:Always label the containers with the date when the milk was expressed. Use the oldest milk first to ensure freshness.
  3. Storage Temperature:Breast milk can be stored at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer, depending on how soon you plan to use it.
  4. Room Temperature: Breast milk can be kept at room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) for up to 4 hours. If the room is warmer (above 77°F or 25°C), breast milk should be used within 2 hours.
  5. Refrigerator:Store breast milk in the back of the refrigerator, where the temperature is the most consistent. Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator (at 32-39°F or 0-4°C) for up to 4 days.
  6. Freezer:Breast milk can be stored in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator (with a separate door) for up to 2 weeks. For longer storage, use a freezer that maintains a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or lower. In a standard freezer, breast milk can be stored for up to 6 months. In a deep freezer, breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months.
  7. Thawing Breast Milk: To thaw frozen breast milk, place the container in the refrigerator overnight or hold it under warm running water. Do not microwave breast milk, as it can create hot spots that can burn your baby.
  8. Do Not Refreeze: Once breast milk has been thawed, do not refreeze it. Use it within 24 hours. 

For working moms, especially those in demanding professions like nursing where long shifts are common, the need for breast milk storage is particularly crucial. That's where insulated storage cups come in handy. These cups offer ample capacity, extended ice retention, portability, and easy ice replacement, catering to the specific needs of busy moms on the go. 

The 5-5-5 rule is a guideline for storing breast milk safely. It means that breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 hours, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and in the freezer for up to 5 months (if stored in a freezer compartment of a refrigerator) or up to 12 months (if stored in a deep freezer). Following this rule helps ensure that breast milk remains safe and nutritious for your baby to consume. 

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your breast milk remains safe and nutritious for your baby.

How to Warm Breast Milk

Warming breast milk properly is important to preserve its nutritional and immune-boosting properties while ensuring it's at a safe temperature for your baby. The optimal temperature for feeding breast milk is body temperature (about 98.6°F or 37°C), which is close to the natural temperature of breast milk when it's freshly expressed. 

The Papablic Swirlable Bottle Warmer is not only safe and efficient but also offers a unique feature that sets it apart. Its automatic swirling motion ensures that breast milk is warmed evenly without hotspots, which can burn your baby's mouth. This swirling action also helps in fully retaining the nutrients in the milk, ensuring that your baby receives all the benefits of breast milk. 

Overheating breast milk can destroy its valuable nutrients and immune-boosting properties. It can also create hot spots in the milk, which can burn your baby's mouth. To avoid overheating, never microwave breast milk or heat it directly on the stove. Instead, use a bottle warmer or place the container of breast milk in a bowl of warm water to gently heat it. 

The fastest way to warm breast milk from the fridge is to use a bottle warmer. The Papablic Swirlable Bottle Warmer can heat breast milk to the ideal temperature in just a few minutes, ensuring that it's ready for feeding quickly and safely. If you need to warm breast milk quickly without a bottle warmer, you can place the container of milk in a bowl of warm water and change the water frequently until the milk reaches the desired temperature.

Harm of Breast Milk with Hotspots

Hotspots in breast milk can pose a risk to your baby's health and safety. When breast milk is heated unevenly, such as in a microwave, hotspots can form, causing some parts of the milk to be much hotter than others. This can lead to burns in your baby's mouth or throat, which can be painful and potentially serious. Here's how you can prevent hotspots and ensure that your breast milk is heated safely: 

  1. Use the Papablic Swirlable Bottle Warmer:The Papablic Swirlable Bottle Warmer is designed to heat breast milk evenly, reducing the risk of hotspots. Its gentle warm water bath ensures that the milk is heated uniformly, preserving its nutritional value and ensuring that it is safe for your baby to consume.
  2. Avoid Microwaving Breast Milk:Microwaving breast milk can create hotspots and uneven heating, increasing the risk of burns to your baby's mouth or throat. It can also destroy some of the beneficial components of breast milk. It is recommended to use a safe and efficient method like the Papablic Swirlable Bottle Warmer to warm breast milk.
  3. Stir or Swirl the Milk: If you are heating breast milk in a container, such as a bottle or storage bag, stir or swirl the milk gently after heating to ensure that it is evenly heated throughout and to disperse any potential hotspots.
  4. Test the Temperature: Before feeding the warmed breast milk to your baby, always test the temperature by dripping a few drops on the inside of your wrist. It should feel warm, not hot. If the milk is too hot, allow it to cool before feeding it to your baby.
How Long Does Breast Milk Last at Room Temperature

Breast milk can be safely kept at room temperature for a certain period, but it's important to follow guidelines to ensure its safety and quality. The exact duration depends on the room temperature and cleanliness of the environment. 

In general, freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours at temperatures up to 77°F (25°C). If the room is warmer, around 79-90°F (26-32°C), it's best to use the milk within 2 hours. 

It's crucial not to leave breast milk out for too long because bacteria can multiply rapidly in it, especially at room temperature. This can lead to contamination and spoilage of the milk, potentially causing illness if consumed by the baby. 

To store breast milk safely at room temperature, follow these guidelines: 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before expressing or handling breast milk.
  • Use clean containers, such as bottles or breast milk storage bags, to collect and store the milk.
  • Label the containers with the date and time the milk was expressed.
  • Store the containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. 

If you need to store breast milk for longer periods, it's best to refrigerate or freeze it. Refrigerated breast milk can be kept for up to 4 days at temperatures of 32-39°F (0-3.9°C), while frozen breast milk can be stored for up to 6 months in a regular freezer and up to 12 months in a deep freezer.

Following these guidelines can help ensure that your breast milk remains safe and nutritious for your baby.


Breast milk is a powerful source of nutrition and protection for infants, offering a unique blend of nutrients, antibodies, and immune-boosting components. It not only supports healthy growth and development but also helps protect against infections and illnesses. Proper storage and handling of breast milk are essential to maintain its quality and safety.

While breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for both mother and baby, promoting bonding and long-term health, it is a personal choice, moms can always have the right to choose breastfeeding or not. Seeking support and guidance from healthcare professionals and breastfeeding support groups can help overcome any challenges and ensure a positive breastfeeding experience.

Can you microwave breast milk for 10 seconds?

It is not recommended to microwave breast milk, even for 10 seconds. Microwaving can create hot spots in the milk, which can burn your baby's mouth. It can also destroy some of the beneficial components of breast milk. It is safer to use a warm water bath or a bottle warmer to heat breast milk gently and evenly. 

How long can refrigerated breast milk be left out at room temperature?

Refrigerated breast milk can be left out at room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) for up to 4 hours. If the room is warmer (above 77°F or 25°C), breast milk should be used within 2 hours to ensure its safety.

Can you mix breast milk from different days?

Yes, you can mix breast milk from different days as long as the milk is at the same temperature. It is best to cool the freshly expressed milk in the refrigerator before combining it with previously chilled milk. Do not add warm breast milk to already chilled breast milk, as this can cause the temperature to rise and increase the risk of bacterial growth. 

Can you mix breast milk and formula?

It is generally safe to mix breast milk and formula, but it is not recommended unless advised by a healthcare professional. Breast milk and formula have different nutrient compositions, and mixing them may alter the balance of nutrients. It is best to feed breast milk and formula separately.