I am going to write a series on breastfeeding, just like the one I wrote on sleeping by composing the information I read in the books, recommendations I received from other mothers and my own personal experiences.
First, I want to write about the physiological features of mother’s milk as well as its production. I don’t want to act as if we are in a biology class about mammals but we have a body that produces milk miraculously that feeds our babies after they are born. If you agree being pregnant is a miracle, breastfeeding is another one.
What produces milk is a hormone. After pregnancy, with less estrogen and progesterone, the body start producing lactogenesis hormones. Producing milk in medical terms is called lactation. This hormone starts producing enzymes 48-72 hours after birth and it activates the milk glands inside the breast.
Right after delivery, until lactogenesis hormone starts working, the body produces colostrum, a liquid which is high in protein and low in fat. This is the first liquid you will nurse your baby with. Colostrum is also called “the first vaccination” which has lots of proteins and minerals. This liquid is kind of yellowish and is not produced as much as regular milk but it is extremely important and feed your baby until your milk comes.
The simplest but the most important rule of milk production is like the market economy, the more the demand is, the more the supply will be. The stimulation of the nipples, whether nursing or pumping , are all regarded as “demand” by our brain. Our body is so sensitive that it records the times we nurse and how much we nurse and arranges the next production accordingly. Mother’s body, first produces milk every 2 hours and then more milk every 4 hours and when your baby is 1-1.5 years old, produces enough to nurse in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. If you nurse your baby for 5 minutes every 30 minutes or 15 minutes every two hours, then your body will adjust accordingly. Left breast is independent from the right one. One breast might produce more milk than the other.
1st part: (foremilk): It is watery and quenches the need for water and when you pump, it looks like milk but it is a little lighter in color.
2nd part: This is a little more condensed and has lots of protein.
3rd part: (hind milk): This is the milk that has fat and lots of calories and helps the baby gain weight. If you pump this milk and store it in the refrigerator, you will see a layer of fat on the top. Because of this, mothers are recommended to nurse until milk on one breast is completely finished. Especially if it seems that your baby is not gaining weight, it might be because he or she is not able to reach this fatty portion of the milk. It is extremely important that you nurse from one breast until there is no more milk, instead of nursing 10 minutes from one and then 10 minutes from the other one, so that your baby is nourished well. If your baby is not nursing only from one breast or your baby does not finish all the milk from one breast, I suggest pumping the rest of the milk. Otherwise, your brain will receive a signal that you do not need more milk and produce less for next time.
The main ingredient for the production of milk is the water in your body. So you definitely have to drink plenty of water after giving birth just as you did during pregnancy. Protein, fat and vitamins and minerals from what you consume, go into the milk. If you smoke or drink, it will be as if your baby is drinking or smoking.
Expecting or nursing mothers need to consult with doctors while taking certain medications. If you have to take medication, you might have to pump your milk when you do not take medication and feed the baby with that for a while and keep pumping and discarding the milk during medication just so that the milk production does not stop.
Breastfeeding 101 – Amazing Mother’s Milk
Breastfeeding 102 – First experience after birth
Breastfeeding 103 – Tips for correct breastfeeding techniques
Breastfeeding 104 – Comfortable and healthy nursing positions
Breastfeeding 105 – Increasing mother’s milk supply
Breastfeeding 106 – Troubleshooting for nursing problem
Breastfeeding 107 – Storing breast milk
Breastfeeding 108 – Why does refrigerated breast milk smells sour
Breastfeeding – Other questions