How is milk produced in the mother’s breast for her baby?

By: - 19th March 2019

Once the little darlings who were nourished and protected inside the mother’s womb come to this world, the nourishment is provided through an amazing natural phenomena; milk that is produced in the mother’s breasts. We decided it is important to explain to you about how this milk production process works, because knowing this will help to maintain a good supply of milk.

Below is diagram that shows the structure of a breast.

Cells that produce milk, as you can see in the image, secret milk due to a hormone called Prolactin. The milk that gets produced by the compression of muscles cells travel down the ducts to the lactiferous sinuses where the milk is collected. The lactiferous sinuses are located in the areola, the dark coloured area around the nipple. When the child is nursing, this part must enter the child’s mouth entirely. The sucking motion of the lips moves the milk that is collected to the child’s mouth through the nipples. When the milk is emptied, more milk travels down to the lactiferous sinuses through the ducts. This is how the child gets the mother’s breast milk.

  • After every feeding session, the hormone Prolactin is released, and milk for the next feeding session is produced. Prolactin is released to the bloodstream due to the stimulation of the nipple that happens when the child is breastfeeding.
  • Prolactin hormone is mostly released at night time and also disrupts ovulation. This helps for the mother to have a good mental state.
  • Oxytocin, a hormone in your bloodstream triggers the flow of milk. It is activated during breastfeeding or prior to that. This also causes the contraction of the uterus. This can cause some pain in the mother’s abdomen when breastfeeding during the early days after delivery.
  • Seeing the baby, the baby’s cry, the love for the child, and self-confidence stimulate the Oxytocin reflex, and anxiety, trauma, depression, pain, an apprehension can hinder the release of Oxytocin. This can result in a decreased milk supply or non-production. Therefore, it is important for the mother to have a good mentality during the breastfeeding stage.

The symptoms of an Oxytocin reflex that functions well.

  • A sensation of pressure and twitching inside the breasts when you are just about to breastfeed the baby or during breastfeeding.
  • Breasts leaking milk when you think about the baby or hear him cry.
  • When the baby is nursing on one breast, milk leaking from the other
  • Milk leaking in a thin flow even after the child stops feeding.
  • The pain in the mother’s abdomen caused by the contraction of the uterus during breastfeeding in the first week after childbirth and sometime, a heavy bleeding from the vagina as well.

Controlling the milk production in the breasts.

  • Breast milk contains ingredients that can decrease or suppress the milk production. When a breast is already filled with a high amount of milk, anti-stimulants (chemicals that hinder the milk production) stops the flow of milk.
  • Too much milk being collected in the breast unnecessarily can cause discomfort. The anti-stimulants protect you from the discomfort. If the child perishes or the breastfeeding is discontinued for any other reason, this process should happen naturally.
  • If you try to get rid of the milk by feeding or expressing, the anti-stimulant too leaves with it, causing a higher milk production.
  • A great example of the activation of anti-stimulants is when the infant does not feed much from one breast. This results in a low milk production in that breast, and as the infant feeds more from the other breast, the milk production of it is increased, becoming larger in size than the other. Therefore, for a consistent milk production, the fuller breast needs to be emptied through feeding or expressing.
An article by Chrishanthi Ganga Kumarihamy, a Grade 1 nurse from the Premature Infant Care Unit of the Provincial Hospital, Kurunegala.

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