A woman’s claim that she extended her father’s life by more than a year by feeding him expressed milk has led many to ask whether human milk can really delay the growth of cancer. The gold standard nutrition for infants, human milk is not, however, a replacement for conventional medicine in the treatment of adult diseases.
Human milk is perfectly composed for babies, including both nutrient and bioactive components that promote growth and development. Official guidance in the UK recommends exclusive human milk feeding for the first six months of life. Continued breastfeeding for one to two years or longer is then endorsed by various organisations, including the WHO.
The composition of human milk varies. Research shows that it changes within feeds, across the day, across lactation, and between different women. This variability benefits the infant as they grow and develop.
The first fluid produced after delivery is colostrum. It is produced in low quantities and is rich in compounds that boost the immune system (such as leukocytes, secretory immunoglobulin A, and lactoferrin), as well as others that support growth and development (like epidermal growth factor). However, colostrum is relatively low in lactose, potassium, and calcium, leading researchers to conclude its function is not primarily to provide nutrition.
Within days the composition changes, lactose increases, marking the production of what many call “transitional milk”. This change in the milk can be delayed if the baby is delivered preterm or if the mother has a metabolic condition or is obese.
Across the next few weeks, milk production increases rapidly. This is to support the changing nutritional and developmental needs of the growing infant. Within a month to six weeks, the milk becomes fully mature.
Mature milk provides around 65 to 70 calories per 100g, which come from about 4g of fat, 7g of carbohydrate, and 1g of protein. But this composition is constantly changing. The variation in calories is primarily due to differences in fat content. Fat content is significantly lower at night and morning compared with afternoon or evening milk. It also varies within the feed itself. Milk at the end of the feed has higher levels than the initial flow.
The composition of milk also varies with maternal diet, especially the amount and type of fatty acid. Many women in developed countries aren’t getting enough fatty acid – important for infant brain development – in their diet and this affects the composition of their breast milk. For example, low levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – an omega 3 fatty acid – consumed by North American mothers translates to low levels in their milk. This has led some researchers to suggest that mothers should take appropriate supplements.
More than just nutrition
But human milk doesn’t just contain nutrition; it contains a variety of compounds with medicinal qualities that are important for the baby’s survival. These “growth factors” are numerous and have wide-ranging effects. For instance, epidermal growth factor is important for the development and repair of the gastrointestinal tract. Insulin-like growth factors are critical in stimulating growth and development, with high levels of some linked to neural, and cochlea development in the ear. There are many growth factors, and they affect many important functions, including the development of the blood vessels, metabolism, intestinal system, nervous system, and endocrine (hormone) system.
Human milk also has important immune impacts, protecting against inflammation and infection. Oligosaccharides (a carbohydrate) encourage the growth of organisms that plays an essential role in early bacterial colonisation of the intestine which have important impacts on gut health and general well-being in later life, while also reducing vulnerability to some pathogens, such as noroviruses.
Not for sharing
Containing a variety of white blood cells, human milk stimulates the development of the infant immune system while providing protection from germs. Research reveals that such transmission, however, opens up the potential for infection with HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and herpes, among other viruses, which can pass along with these cells.
This viral transmission, along with the risk of contamination with bacteria and toxins, creates a need for careful management of milk sharing and selling. The nutrient and bioactive compounds are affected by the mother’s consumption of food, drink, medicines and illicit drugs. The presence of toxins and contaminants are introduced by a mother’s environmental exposure, as well as during expression and storage of the milk. Expressing and pasteurising milk changes its composition which can reduce or even eliminate some bioactive components.
Such impacts make oversight crucial for babies fed with another mother’s milk, but also mean a careful approach is needed by those adults who think human milk might hold medicinal value. While a liquid gold, awareness of the risks as well as the benefits of human milk is crucial, both for adult and infant consumers.
Presiding House Dem bangs gavel and quits after GOP throws a fit over Pelosi calling Trump’s tweet racist
A House Speaker's words have not been taken down from the record since 1984, but Tuesday, Republicans waged a war against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for having the temerity to call President Donald Trump's recent tweets racist.
Trump told four Congresswomen of color to go back to the country they came from. Democrats sought to pass a resolution saying that the tweets were "disgusting, disparaging and racist," but Republicans said doing so violates House rules.
After an hour of discussion between the two parties, a frustrated Congressman Rev. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), acting as the chiar, responded.
GOP strategist Tara Setmayer says Republicans will defend Trump until he uses the N-word
Republican strategist Tara Setmayer told a CNN panel that the only way the GOP is going to be willing to stand up to President Donald Trump is if he uses the N-word.
In a panel discussion with CNN's Jake Tapper, Setmayer said that the Republicans in office will bend over backward trying to defend everything the president says and does.
"I think we’re at the point where I think anything short of the N-word they will make excuses for because at that point there is really no question about it, right?" she said. "So, it is obvious to everyone else, it is amazing to me how many of the Republicans are going out there and I said this yesterday, try to white-splain to people of color what racism is and what it feels like to deal with that every single day."
The media’s ‘Made in America’ problem: Trump creates racist controversy — and gets free campaign coverage
Let’s presume, however depressing that notion may be, that mainstream news organizations will continue to fumble the ball when it comes to directly calling blatantly racist statements coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth what they are, which is racist.
Let’s also presume that in the fallout of such incidents like Trump’s racist tweets on Sunday, media organizations adopt predictable stances. Most struggle to maintain a sense of equanimity and fairness when it comes to calling out Trump’s racism. Fox amplifies it.