Parent Time

Breast Milk Production: Essential Ingredients, Calories and Nutrition Baby Needs

Breast milk is created in by groups of breast cells called the alveoli, which take proteins and other nutrients from the mother's blood supply and transform them into milk. The milk travels from the production sites through milk ducts to the sinuses, where it is stored until being released through the nipple for breastfeeding. The little bumps present on the nipple are the Montgomery glands, and supply the nipple with a skin oil that helps prevent chapping and dryness.

When you're pregnant, your nipples become larger and darken, so that once your baby is born, it's easier for him or her to find the nipples and latch on. There are around 15 openings in each nipple through which milk can flow during feeding: the suckling of the baby stimulates what's called the "let down" response or reflex, which sends the milk from the milk sinuses to the baby's mouth. Other things can stimulate the milk let-down response; hearing a baby cry, thinking about your baby, sexual activity that releases hormones which also impact breast milk production, to name a few.

You don't have to have big breasts to do a good job feeding your child. Milk production operates independently of breast size, and the more you breastfeed your child, the more milk your body will produce. Alternatively, mothers who don't breastfeed their children find that their milk supply dries up. One of the biggest challenges that midwives and lactation consultants face is in teaching young or impoverished mothers that breast milk is not only free food for their infants, but also happens to be the healthiest food for them, providing antibodies and increasing babies' immunity and strength in ways that formula cannot.

The first milk your body produces is called colostrum, a substance that gives infants unparalleled protection from illness. Pediatricians recommend that new mothers feed their babies within an hour after birth, setting the stage for future nursing while providing new babies with the best nutrition available. Human breast milk is a mixture of proteins, enzymes, sugars, vitamins, minerals, hormones and antibodies that do good things for mothers as well as babies. Research has shown that infants who are fed solely with breast milk during the first six months or even better, the first year of life, significantly reduce their chances of getting infections, or having intestinal problems (including later diseases like Crohn's disease)

When your baby begins to nurse, the nerve endings in the nipple send signals to the pituitary gland, which releases the hormone prolactin. The presence of prolactin activates the alveoli, which creates breast milk. The pituitary gland also releases oxytocin, which contracts the cells of the nipple, resulting in the let-down response. Oxytocin also causes contractions in the uterus, which helps it shrink after childbirth, lessening any post-partum bleeding. Oxytocin is also considered the hormone behind the "mothering response", the feeling of closeness and caring exhibited by mothers for their children. The presence of oxytocin in both mother and child during breastfeeding helps create strong bonding between the two.

Many women gain 25 pounds or so during pregnancy, and despair of taking it off once the baby is born. Another benefit of breastfeeding is that the process burns up about 500 calories a day, so that weight loss of a pound a week while nursing isn't unusual. If you breastfeed your baby for at least six months, that translates to a loss of about 24 pounds, not including the weight you lost during delivery of your child. When breastfeeding, you do have to watch what you eat; alcohol is prohibited as it passes directly into your milk; your baby may react to spicy or gassy foods you eat, prompting you to decide that coleslaw should be avoided until your child is no linger nursing. Caffeine can make babies edgy and is best avoided. You may find you need to drink more liquids than usual, since your body is using water to make milk.

Continue reading more information about Breastfeeding in Public Places

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