Research suggests that breast milk for males might be different than for females.
Doctors recommend women breastfeed exclusively in the initial few months so babies benefit from its nutritional and immune system support properties, among others.
Recent research showing the body customizes breast milk content for the individual infant provides insight on how to better enhance milk substitutes for women unable or unwilling to breastfeed.
According to Harvard University researchers, numerous studies on humans, cows, and monkeys have shown significant variations in breast milk content and quantity, seemingly based on gender, but also varying for individual babies over time. Boys tend to receive greater energy-producing milk which is higher in fat or protein, while girls get more milk overall and it’s often richer in calcium.
Biologist Katie Hinde said older research didn’t account for quantity, but only focused on content like proteins, sugar and calcium.
Hinde says, “While the food aspects of milk to some extent are replicated in formula, the immuno factors and medicine of milk are not and the hormonal signals are not.” For example, only breast milk contains the hormone cortisol, to which responses vary based on gender.
While many questions and theories remain, Hinde’s most recent study involving nearly 1.5 million cows showed evidence that the customization process begins while baby is still in the womb.