Lactation in women is not an easy process. Preparation for it begins during pregnancy, passes several stages, requires the participation of many hormones, and depends on many factors.
It is difficult to overestimate the benefits of mother’s milk for a newborn baby. This natural process is irreplaceable in its value but today more and more mothers choose formula feeding. There can be different reasons for this. How to adjust lactation? How to spend this period with maximum benefit for yourself and your baby?
What is Lactation?
Lactation is a natural process of milk formation in the mammary glands with its subsequent release. This is a hormone-conditioned process. It doesn’t depend on the size of the female breast. The process of preparing the breast for milk production is called lactogenesis. The process of maintaining lactation in a lactating woman is called lactopoesis.
Lactation naturally develops after childbirth and is caused by an appropriate hormonal background. The development of a sufficient amount of milk for breastfeeding occurs under the influence of three hormones – placental lactogen, prolactin, and oxytocin. It is their balanced intake in the blood that determines the course of lactation.
Lactation is a natural physiological process of producing a specific nutrient – maternal (breast) milk. The lactation period lasts from the moment of the end of the labor and the first application of the baby to the breast until the milk disappears. According to the research and recommendations of obstetricians and gynecologists, it is necessary to apply the baby to the breast immediately after childbirth.
Despite this, the mammary gland does not begin to give off milk immediately after birth. However, the mother’s body synthesizes the colostrum beneficial to the body. It is well-known that the colostrum plays a huge role in the development of children’s immunity.
Lactation is a physiological process that begins about 2-3 days after birth. At this time, a woman may begin to experience uncomfortable and even painful sensations: breast pressure, breast enlargement, and small pulling pains. This is the physiological norm.
The Beginning of Lactation
Since the appearance of breast milk, the baby needs to be applied to the breast as often as possible. Only this way lactation can become quite stable. Neither pumping nor other methods will help to establish stable lactation. Otherwise, there is a risk that the milk will be lost.
From the moment of the milk inflow, when the colostrum is replaced by transitional milk the period of exclusive breastfeeding begins. Usually, the inflow occurs on the 2nd-4th day after the birth of the child. Sometimes it happens later, on the 5th-7th day. Usually, there comes a lot of milk at once. The breasts become full, heavy, and dense. There may be redness or even a fever. Usually, in a day or two such a state passes, and then milk is produced less, as much as the child needs.
Is there a Need to Pump Milk at the Time of Inflow?
Usually, more simple measures are enough. Put the baby to the breast as often as possible. Let the baby suck as much as they like. When a child sucks the breast on demand it simultaneously stimulates the production of new milk. Also, the baby sucks the milk available in the breast and it helps to avoid overflow. If the mother at the time of the inflow additionally pumps the milk the breast can decide that this milk has gone to the newborn and will continue to produce it in large quantities.
Some Secrets of Breastfeeding an Infant
The process of lactation is stabilized by the 6th -12th day after the birth of the child. Until then, the colostrum is extracted from the breast. It is somewhat different from the future milk in quality and, of course, in quantity.
The production of 2-5 ml of colostrum is quite enough for the baby. An infant’s kidneys can only digest such a small amount. But the benefits of the colostrum for the mother and the baby are invaluable. From the colostrum, the baby will receive immunoglobulins that can protect him from the potential pathogenic flora from the birth canal.
This is one of the purposes for the mothers to put their babies to the breast in the first minutes after birth. The second task is the benefit of starting lactation for the mother’s body (promoting uterine contractions). The exception in this course of events is usually the following:
- Cesarean section, using general anesthesia;
- The use of antibiotics or the mother’s stay in intensive care;
- High blood loss during labor;
- Asphyxia or intracranial birth trauma in the newborn.
If in the first days after childbirth it is impossible to breastfeed, it is recommended to pump milk by hand or with the help of a breast pump. If the liquid does not leave your breast lactostasis and then mastitis may develop. The regular outflow of milk from the first days after birth is a pledge of a long, full lactation in the future.
During the first 6 weeks after childbirth, the young mother is recommended to put the baby to the breast at the baby’s first request. At the same time, there is no need to create breastfeeding schedules. Just pay attention to your baby. All the life settings and contacts are being developed at this time.
During the first 3 months of lactation, and sometimes even in the 7-8th month of breastfeeding, there can be a so-called dairy crisis. At this time, it may seem that the amount of milk decreases. A lot of mothers stop breastfeeding when it happens. But if you keep on giving the breast to the baby without supplementing with artificial mixtures, then after 3-6 days of such a crisis lactation will recover.
No young mother is immune from periodic deterioration of lactation. Among the main reasons are:
- The violations in the mode of feeding the child,
- Irregular attachment to the breast,
- Long breaks between feedings,
- Baby’s sluggish suckling,
- Stress factor.
Elimination of adverse factors contributes to the normalization of the lactation process.
The feeding regime is not necessary at all. It can have the opposite effect. Pediatricians recommend giving the newborn the breast at the first request, without imposing it at any anxiety signs. The baby might just experience temperature discomfort or has a dirty diaper, or just wants to communicate. From 3-4 days of life, the child asks for breasts up to 12-20 times a day. The interval between feedings can be from 15 minutes to several hours. Regularity in the requirements is usually set by the 2nd-3rd month.
10 Common Mistakes of Nursing Women
Many women make quite serious mistakes because of their lack of experience or ignorance:
Do Not Breastfeed an Infant According to a Schedule
The child themselves knows how much milk they need and when they need it. It is advisable to set the feeding schedule only when the period of so-called mature lactation occurs (approximately after 14-21 days) and closer to the completion of lactation. Beginning with this method of feeding a child, the mother risks losing milk very quickly, since the lactation at the initial stage is extremely unstable.
It is Not Recommended to Supplement the Infant with Artificial Mixtures
This is probably one of the most serious mistakes mothers make. For one reason or another, the woman decides that the child does not get enough milk and buys an artificial mixture. Such a diet can lead to a number of adverse effects. First, sucking from the bottle nipple is much easier than attaching to the breast.
And secondly, the mixture has better taste properties which means that there is a high risk that the baby will completely give up the mother’s milk. Despite all the positive properties of formula feeding, it’s not capable of completely replacing breast milk. In addition, formulas can provoke a lot of side effects. The child may have problems with digestion and immunity as well as allergic reactions.
Do Not give the Baby Water
Contrary to a popular belief, milk is not just-food. Almost 90% of it consists of water which means that the child has quite enough liquid. If the mother has a suspicion that the child wants to drink, the best solution will be stimulation of lactation and “unplanned” regular feeding. If the baby drinks water in addition to milk this can lead to a rejection of food.
The fact is that as the stomach becomes full, the brain receives a signal about it and a feeling of artificial saturation begins. Giving water to a baby is possible only in two cases: if it’s time to introduce complementary foods (not earlier than 6 months) or if the baby is initially on artificial feeding. Otherwise, problems with the kidneys may start and edema development will be just around the corner.
Hunger is not Always the Cause of Crying
In the beginning, the only way for a baby to attract attention is by crying. But the reasons for crying can be various: the child may have colic, stomach pain, their head may be aching, the baby may be simply bored, or may want to be taken in the arms, the baby might get scared or it’s time to change the diaper, etc.
For some Reason, Some Mothers are Sure that the Indicator of a Large Amount of Milk is a Dense and Firm Breast
This is a huge misconception. If you feel seals in the breast this doesn’t mean that you have excess milk. But this may be a sign of the onset of lactostasis. Your breasts should be soft. Moreover, a woman with normal development of lactation should not experience a lot of unpleasant sensations. Therefore, a firm breast is not an excuse to avoid feeding in order to reduce lactation but a signal to drain the breast.
Without a Sufficient Reason, You Should Not Express Breast Milk
Expressing the milk, the woman loses the most useful part of it – the so-called “back” milk. Instead of expressing, it is better to offer the baby another breast. Pumping is advisable only if there is lactostasis.
Do not use Obsolete Data on Weight Gain in Toddlers
Many pediatricians use the old schemes and tables of weight growth ratios, etc. These data were relevant 10-20 years ago, and materials were made for children who are on artificial feeding.
If Possible, Do not give the Baby a Pacifier
The sucking reflex of the child is satisfied by the maternal breast. If the child cries, you need to find and eliminate the cause of irritation. Try not to use a pacifier.
The Control Weighing of an Infant is Useless
Often mothers weigh a child before and after a feeding to find out how much they ate. But the fact is that the baby consumes a negligible amount of milk. To reflect such a small result, we need very sensitive scales which cost quite a lot of money. Ordinary household scales will not tell truthful information. Secondly, a baby consumes a different amount of milk every time. It is not practical to use this method of control. Weigh the baby once a week, that’s enough.
Do Not Introduce Complementary Feeding too Early
The lure should be introduced not earlier and not later than 6 months. If it’s introduced earlier there is a risk of allergic reactions and development of problems with the gastrointestinal tract, if later – mental and physical development disorders are possible.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.