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How protein in breast milk supports your baby’s healthy growth

As a parent, you know that everything you do, especially in the early days of your baby’s life, lays the foundations for their future health and development.

Now, research shows the nutrition a child receives specifically during the first 1,000 days of life – from conception through to two years old – has more influence on their long-term health, and their resistance to germs and allergies, than any other period in their life.  The first 1,000 days sets their nutritional foundation for life.

So a healthy diet during pregnancy, breast milk during the first six months (if possible), nutritious weaning foods and then a balanced diet during toddlerhood are vital for your little one’s lifelong health.

Breast milk has so many benefits – most importantly it provides the right quality of protein, at the appropriate quantity

For the first six months of your baby’s life, the benefits of breast milk are many, but it is the unique composition of nutrients in breast milk that make it the gold standard.

Watch the video to find out more.

Breast milk proteins

The protein quality and content in breast milk helps your baby to grow at a steady rate. Levels of protein adapt over time, so in the early weeks your baby needs to grow fast but their little tummies can only fit in small quantities of milk, so the protein content in breast milk is relatively high. In later months, when the pace of growth is steadier and they can drink more milk, the protein content decreases.

Therefore, breastfed babies only get what they need, when they need it. This in turn supports healthy weight gain in your baby and helps reduce the risk of them becoming overweight later in life.

As well as providing the best nutrition, the proteins in breast milk also help reduce the risk of allergies.

How does protein work?

Next to water, protein is the most abundant component in the body and is needed for a healthy digestive and immune system. Our bodies use it to build muscle, bone and blood, and to form enzymes and hormones. It also plays an important role in brain development, particularly from mid pregnancy to two years of age.

Protein is made of amino acids, often called the body’s building blocks. We need 20 amino acids, which we get from eating foods with protein. Some of these amino acids are ‘essential’ because the body cannot make them, so we must have a steady supply. What’s great about breast milk protein is that it’s rich in these essential amino acids, helping baby to grow and develop.

Getting the right quality, and the appropriate amount of protein during your baby’s first thousand days helps with a steady and therefore appropriate growth.

Responsive feeding – how much is enough?

It’s not easy to work out when your baby’s had enough in the beginning but amazingly your baby already knows. That’s because babies have a built -in appetite regulation that shows itself in various physical and verbal cues. By looking out for these cues and understanding what they mean you can make sure your baby is getting the right amount of food and may help to achieve a healthy growth. To help you, we’ve made a series of videos showing the most common feeding cues, that you can watch HERE

SMA® Nutrition understands the importance of protein

At SMA® Nutrition, we recognise the importance of breast milk protein, appropriate growth associated with better long term health, and the impact on your baby’s nutritional foundation for life.

Over the past 50 years, SMA® Nutrition has invested in protein research, inspired by the specific nutritional needs of babies and the importance of getting the right quality, and the appropriate amount of protein during your baby’s first thousand days.

To find out more about getting the right nutrition for you and your baby, browse the articles for your stage:



The first 1000 days of life start from conception. Read what our experts say about getting the right nutrition during this important time.

See all Pregnancy articles


Congratulations! Your little one is here. How can you make sure that they get the right nutrition for their healthy growth?

See all Newborn articles


As a new mum, breastfeeding is best for your little one. Now as your baby grows, find out what else you can do to give them the right nutrition for their needs.

See all Baby articles


Now your baby is in their second year and their first 1,000 days are almost over. See how getting the right nutritional balance in their diet can support their development.

See all Toddler articles

Important advice to mothers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.