Breast milk production: how it works
Your body is able to produce breast milk in accordance with the needs of the baby at each stage of its development. Understanding how milk production “turns on”, what happens to milk when you feed your baby, and why the production adjusts to his needs as he grows, will help you start this amazing process correctly.
First day: milk production at birth
The baby is usually ready for breastfeeding from birth. When he grabs his chest and begins to suck rhythmically, the cells that produce milk “turn on” and the formation of the first breast milk, colostrum, starts. Try to feed the baby if possible in the first hour of his life, and then – as soon as he shows interest in feeding. This will help lay the foundation for good milk production in the future.
The early days: the arrival of milk
At this stage, your body levels of progesterone are reduced,
pregnancy hormone, which begins to fall after the placenta is released, and the hormones responsible for the production of milk, such as prolactin, insulin and hydrocortisone, are included in the work. These hormones will help start milk production. Approximately on the third day of the baby’s life, milk will begin to come, and you will feel that your chest is full and noticeably firmer.
First month: milk production formation
In the first weeks, your body will be especially susceptible to the amount of milk released, as it learns to produce it in the right amount. Prolactin levels increase sharply every time you empty your chest, thereby helping to shape the lactation process. It also helps ripen your milk in composition. At this stage, transitional milk is produced and its quantity continues to grow.
For a good milk production in the long term, it is very important that you are next to the baby in the first few weeks. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk will be produced. This process resembles the law of supply and demand. Each time after emptying the breast, whether it is feeding the baby or decanting, more milk will be produced.
Remember that for newborns to eat normally often, perhaps even every 45 minutes, and this does not mean at all that they do not get enough milk. Frequent feeding helps shape milk production, so feed your baby on demand, not on schedule.
“In the first weeks you may think that you don’t have enough milk, because the baby will eat all the time, but this is normal,” says Joe, a mother of two children from the UK. not necessarily so. ”
Do not forget that children are applied to the chest also for comfort. Breastfeeding helps them calm down and adapt to a new life outside the mother’s womb. In addition, feeding helps establish a connection between you.
Stable milk production in the first month
If you follow the needs of your baby and feed him as often and for as long as he wants, milk production should be adjusted.
Some mothers try to increase the period between feedings so that the breast can produce more milk during this time, but do not do this, as this may have the opposite effect.
If you cannot breast-feed directly in the first two weeks, express milk to form and support its production during this critical period and beyond.
Did you know that additional feeding your baby with the formula unnecessarily can lower your milk production? The chest will not receive a signal to increase production, because it will not be emptied. In addition, if the baby sleeps longer after the mixture, he may miss his usual next feeding time.
This is a kind of “feeding trap.” After three to four days of feeding with the mixture, during which the breast is emptied less, the body will receive a signal that breastfeeding is stopped and the amount of milk produced will begin to decrease. As a result, the child will remain hungry and will need additional supplementation with the mixture. And so in a circle … As a result, this will lead to a really low milk production, and the baby will feed mainly on the mixture.
Breast milk production after six weeks
After a month of breastfeeding, bursts of prolactin secretion after feeding begin to decrease, milk becomes mature, and the body gets used to produce as much milk as your baby needs. In fact, the breast starts to work “on autopilot.” 4 Perhaps at this time you will also notice that the breast has become softer and the milk leak has stopped.
At this stage, women often have fears of “losing milk.”
However, this only means that milk production has been established and now fully meets the needs of the child. It is noteworthy that although the child continues to grow, he will consume approximately the same amount of milk both at six weeks and at six months.