In just nine short months, your body nourishes and grows a foetus into a baby. Then, it produces food for your new baby. It’s important to know how this process takes place in your body. This helps you maintain the right diet and health to stimulate the process.
Here’s how your breasts produce milk:
Changes before the birth of your baby.
Long before your baby’s birth, your body silently prepares you to be your baby’s primary source of nourishment. During pregnancy, hormones stimulate the mammary glands of your breasts to produce milk. The whole process starts in your brain, where your pituitary gland secretes two special hormones:
- prolactin, which prompts your body to start producing milk
- oxytocin, which signals your breast to release the milk as your baby sucks
By about the sixth month of your pregnancy, you’re ready to make milk. Your breasts may increase in size.
Changes after the birth of your baby.
Prolactin and oxytocin are produced in response to the last stages of pregnancy and labour . then later by nipple stimulation during breastfeeding. Here’s how this works:
- Prolactin stimulates the glands in your breasts to produce milk
- Breast milk moves into your milk ducts, where it pools until you’re ready to feed your baby
- During breastfeeding, as your baby nurses, the nipple stimulation from her sucking causes the release of oxytocin, which opens the channels, letting the milk flow
The breastfeeding clock.
Breastfeeding is a natural process, but both the baby and mother need to learn how to make the experience productive and comforting. Here’s an idea of what to expect:
During the first 3 to 4 days after you give birth, your breasts secrete a thick, yellowish, translucent fluid called colostrum, which is high in protein, vitamins, minerals and antibodies. Frequent, short feedings during these first few days help both you and your baby adjust to breastfeeding and increase milk production. The frequency of feeding will depend entirely upon demand of the baby in the first week.
Transitional milk comes in after about 3 to 5 days of breastfeeding. It marks the change from colostrum to regular breast milk. As the milk comes in, your breasts may become very full and feel tender. Continue to breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours; don’t skip feedings or prolong the time between feedings. Consistency is important to help your body establish milk production and to synchronise with your baby’s needs.
By this time you may feel more comfortable with breastfeeding. The latch-on and positioning procedures should be easier and milk production should be well on its way. The frequency of feeding still depends upon demand but will gradually be regularized as you and your baby get more efficient and comfortable in breastfeeding.
By the sixth week, you’ll feel physically stronger and should have reasonably recovered from the birth process. By now you must be able to chalk out a schedule of frequency and duration of feeds. You should breastfeed your baby 8-12 times a day depending upon the demand.
At this stage, you should be through the period of adjustment and feel fairly comfortable with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, will now be an enjoyable time for you and your baby.
During breastfeeding your body uses nutrients are available to produce breast milk. You don’t need to worry if your diet isn’t perfect, but be sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet with ample of variety whenever possible to provide your baby the right nutrition when she enters her new world.