The Miracle of Mother’s Milk


(Friday Church News Notes, July 29, 2016,, 866-295-4143)

New research continues to discover the amazing power of mother’s milk to nourish and protect infants. Each type of mammalian milk has ingredients varying according to “what each species needs,” and “human milk is a particular marvel,” just as we would expect as the product of divine creation (“Breast-feeding the Microbiome,” The New Yorker, July 22, 2016). For example, human milk contains large numbers of “complex sugars called oligosaccharides (H.M.O.s), the third-most plentiful ingredient in human milk, after lactose and fats.” The baby cannot digest these H.M.O.s. Instead, they pass through the small intestine and land in the large intestine where they are eaten by special bacteria that in turn nourish the baby’s stomach cells. The microbe, Bifidobacerium longum infantis (B. infantis, for short) has a cluster of thirty genes that are specially designed for devouring the H.M.O.s from the mother’s milk. There are other Bifs in the human gut, but only B. infantis has this genetic cluster. As it digests the H.M.O.s, “it releases short-chain fatty acids, which feed an infant’s gut cells” and “encourages gut cells to make adhesive proteins that seal the gaps between them, keeping microbes out of the bloodstream, and anti-inflammatory molecules that calibrate the immune system” (Ibid.). B. infantis does this helpful work for the baby only when it is fed with H.M.O.s from the mother’s milk. If fed lactose, instead, “it survives but doesn’t engage in any repartee with the baby’s cells.” Human breast milk “has five times as many types of H.M.O.s as cow’s milk, and several hundred times the quantity. Even chimp milk is impoverished compared with ours.” And scientists are only beginning to understand what the various types of H.M.O.s in human breast milk do for the baby. The report concludes its discussion of this incredibly complex, finely-turned, perfectly orchestrated process by speculating as to how it evolved. A couple of ridiculous “just so” stories are tossed out for good measure. Instead of engaging in “just so” fairy tales, scientists should stand back in awe, humbling themselves before the almighty Creator and seeking Him through the gospel of Jesus Christ while there is opportunity.

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