Mother and Baby Tine

Breast Milk and its Most Important Functions

Milupa’s Nutricia research is inspired by breast milk. We research breast milk and breastfeeding in order to develop optimal infant nutrition.


The constituents of breast milk are perfectly tailored to your baby’s needs. Its combination of nutrients adapts to the age-related requirements of your infant.  These properties ensure that your child gets everything they need to grow and thrive. It is the ideal food for your baby and can have a positive, long-term influence on their healthy development.

Breast milk and its most important functions

  • Supplies energy for growth
  • Promotes brain and vision development
  • Supports the development of a strong immune system
  • Helps in the maturation of the digestive system
  • Protects against allergies by strengthening the dominant intestinal flora known as bifidobacteria
  • Protects against obesity (according to the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine)

The composition of breast milk

Breast milk is made up of more than 200 components. The most important for your baby are:

  • Carbohydrates, such as prebiotic oligosaccharides
  • Fats, including long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs)
  • Proteins
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals and trace elements
  • Other constituents

Breast milk consists of 87.5% water and 12.5% macronutrients, primarily carbohydrates, but also high-quality fats and proteins, as well as vital micronutrients -vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

Depending your baby’s age, one Litre of breast milk contains approximately 53-61g of lactose, 30-50g of fat and LCPs, 10-12g of indigestible carbohydrates (prebiotic oligosaccharides) and 8-10g of protein.

Breast milk adapts to your baby’s needs

Breast milk adapts to your baby’s needs based on their age and stage of development. In the first few days after birth, breast milk is called colostrum. Due to the high immunoglobulin (antibody) content, colostrum is very high in protein and stimulates intestinal activity – exactly what your baby needs after birth. Then the transitional milk has a higher fat and energy content, corresponding to the baby’s stronger digestive system and higher energy requirement.

About 14 days after birth, the breast milk is known as mature milk. It has high levels of fat and carbohydrates, with less protein, fewer minerals, less sodium, zinc and especially fat-soluble vitamins. Its high energy density remains relatively constant throughout the breastfeeding period.

Mature breast milk is extremely important because infants need roughly 3 times as much energy per pound of body weight as adults, due to their rapid growth. If we compare the size and capacity of the stomach, it quickly becomes clear why breastmilk has to have such high energy density: a baby’s stomach is only one tenth of the size of an adult’s. It can hold 200ml at most, while our adult stomachs can hold up to 2000ml.

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