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The marvelous essence: Exploring the nutritional virtues of maternal milk

Sivakumar Vijayaraghavalu *



In an era brimming with dietary supplements and baby formulas, the unassuming yet profoundly significant maternal milk emerges as a wondrous essence. This naturally derived sustenance, crafted by nature’s own hand, comprises a perfect blend of nutrients, antibodies, and enzymes designed to promote the health and growth of infants. This composition seeks to delve into the vast health advantages of maternal milk, offering perspectives that resonate with both the general populace and the scientific domain.

A Tailor-Made Nutritional Marvel

Maternal milk represents a dynamic, living nutritional substance that evolves in composition to satisfy the changing requirements of the developing child. It boasts an ideal mix of proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates, crucial for brain development and physical growth.

In contrast to formula, which is unchanging, maternal milk adjusts, supplying exactly what the infant necessitates at various stages. Colostrum, the initial thick, yellow milk produced immediately after birth, is laden with a high concentration of antibodies and leukocytes, serving as a powerful enhancer of the immune system.

The Bulwark Against Maladies

Among the most celebrated health merits of nursing is its role in guarding against an array of diseases. Infants fed on breast milk exhibit a decreased likelihood of encountering chronic ailments such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Furthermore, this protective measure extends to a lesser occurrence of infectious diseases, like infections of the respiratory tract, ears, and gastrointestinal disturban-ces. This defensive barrier is primarily due to the maternal antibodies transmitted via breast milk, which strengthens the infant’s emerging immune defenses.

The Pillar of Healthy Gut Flora

Maternal milk plays a pivotal role in the cultivation of a robust gut microbiome, the collective of beneficial bacteria within the gastrointestinal system. It is rich in prebiotics, especially human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which, though indigestible by the infant, serve as a food source for the gut’s beneficial bacteria. This initial colonization is vital for immune functionality and nutrient absorption, establishing a foundation for enduring health.

Emotional Connectivity and Mental Health

The practice of nursing engenders a profound emotional connection between mother and infant, essential for the child’s emotional and mental development. This bonding process triggers the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘love hormone,’ in both participants, fostering sentiments of affection, trust, and safety. Moreover, nursing is linked with a diminished incidence of postnatal depression among mothers, highlighting its mental health benefits.

Socioeconomic and Ecological Advantages

Beyond the health of individuals, breastfeeding presents substantial socioeconomic and ecological benefits. It offers an economical method of nourishing infants, sparing families the cost of baby formula. From an environmental standpoint, breastfeeding diminishes the need for formula production, packaging, and waste, aiding in the pursuit of a more sustainable environment.

The Imperative for Support

Despite the acknowledged advantages of maternal milk, global breastfeeding rates remain below optimal levels. There is an urgent demand for community backing, educational initiatives, and policies that support nursing. Work environments ought to establish lactation spaces, and healthcare practitioners should provide nursing guidance and counseling.

In summation, maternal milk is not just a nutritional source; it is a fundamental component for lifelong health, emotional stability, and ecological responsibility. By advocating for and backing nursing practices, society can nurture healthier generations and a more robust community.

As scientific inquiry continues to unveil the intricacies of maternal milk, its esteemed status as a wondrous essence is further magnified, highlighting the necessity for its acknowledgment and support across all societal sectors.


* Sivakumar Vijayaraghavalu PhD wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Life Sciences (Zoology), Manipur University (Central University)
and is an Innovator awardee from Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, USA
and can be reached at drshiva(AT)manipuruniv(DOT)ac(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on 24 February 2024 .



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