What Happens When Mother Breastfeed Their Children?
Oleh: Morinaga Platinum
When a woman undergoes pregnancy, followed by the birthing and breastfeeding processes, it is amazing to imagine how the body of the future mother is prepared to the smallest detail.
When the fetus is beginning to form in the uterus, the breast is also being prepared to produce breast milk as the first meal of the child when it is born. Pregnant women may experience several symptoms such as pain and swollen breasts, and increased nipple sensitivity. The breast size is enlarged because all the components involved in the production of breast milk will increase in quantity, including the alveolus, lobules, and lactiferous ducts. The areola of pregnant women will also appear darker and small spots will begin to form around the nipple. Do not worry, as all of these are understandable.
The breast contains glands that produce breast milk. This produced breast milk will be delivered to the nipple through a breast milk duct. When the pregnancy is at term, the number of glands in the breast will be twice as many.
After birth, the previously high levels of estrogen and progesterone will begin to decrease. Both these hormones will be replaced by prolactin, which functions to provide signals to the breast to produce breast milk.
Generally, women will begin to produce breast milk on the third day following birth. Initially, the breast will produce colostrums, a thick yellowish liquid rich in proteins and nutrition for immunity, which are very important for the child. So, mothers can immediately attempt to breastfeed the child even though the breast milk has not been produced yet.
As mothers attempt to breastfeed more frequently, the sensation produced by the sucking of the child will send signals to the hypothalamus gland in the brain to produce prolactin. This hormone sends a command to the alveolus to produce breast milk. So, the more often a breastfeeding attempt is made, the more the amount of breast milk produced.
There will come a time where the body no longer produces high levels of prolactin, and therefore the production of breast milk will primarily depend on stimulations from the sucking of the child. The more seldom the mother breastfeeds, the lower the production of breast milk, for instance when the child is introduced to complementary food.
Along with the production of prolactin, stimulations from the sucking of the child will also trigger the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin will enter the circulation of the uterus to stimulate contraction of the uterine muscles, and it also enters the breasts to stimulate the breast muscles to release the breast milk that has been produced in the alveoles. A sign that breast milk is ready to be released is a tingling sensation in the nipple, known as the let-down reflex.
Oxytocin, also known as the happiness hormone, can make the mother feel relaxed, comfortable, and calm, so that they are prevented from experiencing the baby blues syndrome. Some methods to stimulate the production of oxytocin include skin to skin contact with the child and positive support full of love for exclusive breastfeeding from the partner.
It is hoped that following the aforementioned explanation on breast milk production, mothers are more certain and optimistic in providing exclusive breast milk for the child.