How breastfeeding works
Breasts are parts of the female and male sexual anatomy.
For females, breasts are both functional (for breastfeeding) and sexual (bringing pleasure).
Male breasts don’t have a function.
Each breast is compromised
- 15 to 20 glands called lobes, each of which has many smaller lobules, like bunches of grapes, that produce milk
- Ducts, thin tubes that carry milk to the nipple
- Nipple is located in the middle of the areola, darker area surrounding the nipple
Breast changes are caused by four main hormones: estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and oxytocin
Estrogen and progesterone prepare breasts to make milk
Oxytocin contract muscle cells to secrete milk
Prolactin makes milk secreting cells to secrete milk
(This photo shows that the cycle of baby suckling and Oxytocin secreting)
It is important to understand that oxytocin starts working when breastfeeding as well as when the baby is suckling. Oxytocin also makes a mother’s uterus contract after delivery and helps to reduce bleeding.
Oxytocin is stimulated by
- Thinks lovingly of baby
- Sound of the baby
- Sight of the baby
Oxytocin is inhibited by
(This photo shows the cycle of baby suckling and Prolactin secreting)
When a baby suckles, the level of prolactin in the blood increases, and stimulates production of milk by the alveoli.
Enhancing factors to secrete Prolactin are:
- Early initiation of breastfeeds
- Good attachment and effective suckling
- Frequent feeds including night feeds
- Emptying of breast after breastfeeding
Hindering factors to secrete Prolactin are:
- Delay in initiation of breastfeeds
- Pre-lacteal feeds
- Bottle feeding
- Incorrect positioning
- Painful breast
(This photo is comparison of Good attachment and Poor attachment while breastfeeding)
Four signs of good attachment are:
- more of the areola is visible above the baby’s top lip than below the lower lip;
- the baby’s mouth is wide open;
- the baby’s lower lip is curled outwards;
- the baby’s chin is touching or almost touching the breast.
Four signs of poor attachment are:
- more of the areola is visible below the baby’s bottom lip than above the top lip – or the amounts above and below are equal;
- the baby’s mouth is not wide open;
- the baby’s lower lip points forward or is turned inwards;
- the baby’s chin is away from the breast.
Causes of Poor Attachment
- Use of feeding bottle
- Inexperienced mother
- Functional Difficulty
- Lack of skilled support
Breasts start getting ready to make milk when pregnant.
First milk, colostrum (thick and clear to yellow in color), in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Once baby and placenta are delivered, more milk.
Over the next few days, the amount of milk will increase and the color will change to appear waterier and whiter.
(This photo shows that the color changes of breastmilk)
Breastmilk flow depends partly on the mother’s thought, feelings and sensation.
Many common difficulties can be caused by poor attachment to the breast.
Family is the important role in supporting mother to achieve successful breastfeeding.
Amount of milk that the breasts produce depends partly on how much the baby suckles, and how much milk she removes.
Therefore, more suckling makes more milk.