During adolescence the breasts develop. They continue to develop in pregnancy. The breasts produce milk as early as 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. In the last months of pregnancy, colostrum is present in the breasts. Most mothers will notice some breast growth, change of colour, tenderness, and the appearance of noticeable veins in the breasts during pregnancy.
As the baby suckles at the breast, hormones are released in the mother’s brain. The mother’s brain communicates with the breast to make milk and deliver milk to the baby. These hormones are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is released when the baby starts to suckle at the breast, causing the breast to make milk. As the baby continues to suckle oxytocin is released, allowing the breast to deliver the milk. During this process, the little muscles around the milk sacs contract and the milk ducts dilate, allowing the baby to receive large volumes of milk. This is called the MILK EJECTION REFLEX. There are a number of these throughout the feed. At this time, the baby drinks. There are times in the feed when the baby suckles and does not drink very much, and there are times when the baby drinks after the milk ejection reflex. It is important to watch your baby to see when he is suckling and when he is drinking. It is also important for the baby to suckle in a way that signals the brain to release the hormones. The baby should achieve and maintain a deep latch onto the breast and areola, not just the nipple. Mom will be more comfortable and the baby will receive more milk if the baby suckles on the areola.
The baby's suckle drives the system. The suckle is what releases the hormones from the brain and communicates with the breast to make and deliver milk. For this reason, the suckle should be protected. It is recommended that soothers or pacifiers and bottles be avoided until breastfeeding has been established as the way the baby suckles on these is different and may impact the way the baby suckle at the breast.>
One of the amazing qualities of breast milk is that it is actually live and it changes its composition to meet the baby’s needs over time, including during each feed.
After the birth of the baby, the breast makes milk in stages. The first milk is called colostrum. The colostrum is in the breast at the baby's birth. Colostrum is thick, yellow milk with high amounts of germ-fighting cells. The main function of colostrum is protection. Colostrum lines a baby’s stomach and protects against harmful bacteria. It promotes proper stomach function and health. It also has a laxative effect, which helps the baby pass his first few bowel movements, called meconium. Colostrum comes in small quantities that are suitable for a baby’s small stomach size.
Over the first week, breast milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk. The mature milk usually “comes in” around day 2 to 5 in response to hormonal changes at birth. The mature milk is high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories. It may take a couple of weeks for your milk to change from colostrum (yellowish) to mature milk (bluish). The volume of mature milk increases every day over the first few weeks, as does the baby’s stomach.
Click here for a chart on change in the first week:
Once your mature milk comes in, it changes throughout the feed. The milk starts off as foremilk, which is watery and quenches the baby’s thirst. As the baby feeds, the fat content in the milk increases and this is called hindmilk. As the breast empties, the fat content in the milk becomes higher. This is why it is important for the baby to be able to feed on the breast as long as he needs to. This will help the baby get the fatty milk and help him stay satisfied between feeds and gain weight.
Once the mature milk has come in, the only way to make more milk is to remove it. Milk should be removed frequently and on baby’s cue. This process is often referred to as supply and demand. The more milk removed, the more milk the breast will make.
Most mothers can and will make enough milk for their baby including mothers with multiple babies.
The key to making enough milk:
The key to increasing your milk supply:
Baby-led latching is a natural and simple way for your baby to find your breast right after birth or any time you are breastfeeding. It is especially helpful when your baby is learning to breastfeed, when your baby is not breastfeeding well, or when your nipples are sore.
Latching and Positioning:
Click here to watch a video on milk supply:
Women who either have stopped breastfeeding and wish to resume breastfeeding or who adopt, may have the opportunity to breastfeed their babies. These situations take time, work and commitment. The degree of success in establishing breastmilk supply varies between each mother and baby. Some mothers will not be able to make the full amount of breastmilk to meet their baby’s growth and developmental needs. For this reason it is important for women who choose to relactate or induce lactation to seek assistance and ongoing support from their health care provider and a lactation specialist to establish breastfeeding. Mothers and babies can enjoy the closeness that the breastfeeding relationship offers, even if unable to produce the full amount of breastmilk required by baby.
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