Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for infants, a result of millions of years of evolution, finely attuning it to the requirements of the infant. Breast milk contains many complex proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, the concentrations of which alter dramatically over a single feed, as well as over lactation, to reflect the infant's needs. In addition to providing a source of nutrition for infants, breast milk contains a myriad of biologically active components. These molecules possess diverse roles, both guiding the development of the infants immune system and intestinal microbiota. Orchestrating the development of the microbiota are the human milk oligosaccharides, the synthesis of which are determined by the maternal genotype. In this review, we discuss the composition of breast milk and the factors that affect it during the course of breast feeding. Understanding the components of breast milk and their functions will allow for the improvement of clinical practices, infant feeding and our understanding of immune responses to infection and vaccination in infants.