Breastfeeding: How the components of breast milk help develop the circadian rhythms of a baby

Toni Harman
6 min readSep 29, 2022

Quick Summary: Breastfeeding info for parents. New review paper from Mexico on how the complex nutritive and non-nutritive components of breast milk change over the day/night to help a baby develop its own circadian clock. The paper includes a great description of the difference between these components in human milk vs infant formula.

Breastfeeding and parent info: In breast milk, the concentration of both nutritive and non-nutritive milk components change over the day and night according to the circadian rhythms of the mother.
Breastfeeding: How the components of breast milk help develop the circadian rhythms of a baby. Caba-Flores Md Et al. Front Nutr. (2022) http://microbiomecourses.com

Helpful breastfeeding info — for parents and health professionals

Human milk is incredibly complex, with many bioactive and immune factors.

Breast milk also contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) which help the development of the infant gut microbiome. All these components are crucial for infant health.

Now a new review paper by scientists from Mexico explains how the concentrations of milk components change over the day and night to help the development of a baby’s circadian rhythms.

As the paper describes, the development of the circadian system begins in utero, with a baby receiving time cues from the mother’s temperature, metabolites and hormones.

When a baby is born, the circadian rhythms are not yet fully developed.

But evolution has provided the solution: Human milk!

As the paper describes, in the mother’s milk, the concentration of both nutritive and non-nutritive milk components change over the day and night according to the circadian rhythms of the mother.

As well as different hormones, milk components including lipids, proteins, amino acids, endogenous cannabinoids all also have different concentrations between day and night.

These time cues in the mother’s milk help the baby develop it’s own circadian clock.

The paper by Caba-Flores MD et al. was published May 12 2022 in Front Nutr.

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What are circadian rhythms?

Circadian rhythms are like your internal 24 hour body clock. They run in the…

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Toni Harman

I help parents and health professionals better understand the science of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the microbiome. https://linktr.ee/toniharman