Medical Definition of Breast milk

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

Breast milk: Milk from the breast. Human milk contains a balance of nutrients that closely matches infant requirements for brain development, growth and a healthy immune system. Human milk also contains immunologic agents and other compounds that act against viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Since an infant's immune system is not fully developed until age 2, human milk provides a distinct advantage over formula.

Children who are breastfed enjoy lower rates of several chronic childhood diseases, including respiratory infections and ear infections as well as diarrhea. Breastfed infants gain less weight and tend to be leaner at 1 year of age than formula-fed infants, resulting in fewer overweight and obese children.

Breastfeeding releases a hormone in a woman's body that causes her uterus to return to its normal size and shape more quickly and reduces blood loss after delivery. In addition, breastfeeding for longer periods of time (up to 2 years) and among younger mothers may possibly reduce the risks of breast and ovarian cancers.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018