Not just milk
Breast milk is rich in nutrients and contains substances such as hormones and (good) bacteria. Breastfeeding contains many substances in the first days after birth that strengthen the immune system, while after a few weeks there are more substances in breast milk that stimulate the growth of the baby. In addition, the composition of breast milk changes during the day and breast milk can differ between mothers. In this way, the baby gets exactly what it needs.
Benefits of breast milk
Breast milk has a positive influence on the child’s health, such as a reduced risk of developing diabetes and obesity. Moreover, it appears that breastfeeding positively affects the cognitive development of the child. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for maternal health, for example it lowers the risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. That is why organizations like the World Health Organisation recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth and to breastfeed until two years of age in addition to other (solid) foods.
We are investigating whether receiving breast milk is related to later development, such as the development of the physiological stress system. We are also interested in the composition of breast milk, cognition and the gut bacteria of the developing child. We also investigate which factors can change the composition of breast milk, such whether returning to work after maternity leave relates to changes in milk composition.
Cooijmans, K. H. M., Beijers, R., Brett, B. E., & de Weerth, C. (2021). Daily skin-to-skin contact in full-term infants and breastfeeding: Secondary outcomes from a randomized controlled trial. Maternal & Child Nutrition, Jul 8:e13241. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13241.
Aparicio, M. Browne, P. D., Hechler, C., Beijers, R, Rodríguez, J. M., de Weerth, C., Fernandez, L. (2020). Human Milk Cortisol and Immune Factors over the First Three Postnatal Months: Relations to Maternal Psychosocial Distress. PLOS One, 15(5):e0233554.
Browne, P. D., Aparicio, M., Alba, C., Hechler, C., Beijers, R., Rodríguez, J. M., … & de Weerth, C. (2019). Human milk microbiome and maternal postnatal psychosocial distress. Frontiers in microbiology, 10, 2333.