Breastmilk Production

How does Breastmilk Production work?

If a mother understands the process of breastfeeding, she will be able to recognize and implement measures that can help solve many breastfeeding problems, such as oversupply and low milk supply.

How Does it all Start?

At the beginning, the hormones that are produced by pregnancy, start to change and grow your milk ducts; they start getting ready for breastmilk production, by increasing in number and by branching out with clusters of alveoli on the ends.

During your pregnancy, just half way through, your endocrine control system will start to trigger the making of colostrum and your milk supply will start to "come in" 30-40 hours after giving birth to baby. This process may take longer, in moms who have had a c-section delivery. 

Your baby’s tummy is so small at this stage, that he/she only needs a few drops of colostrum with every feed to be satisfied.

A mother's body will usually not produce milk before a baby is born, as the levels of progesterone are too high, but once she delivers the placenta, the levels of progesterone will drop. The high level of prolactin, then triggers copious milk production “lactogenesis 2”

Mom should start to breastfeed her baby as soon as possible, as this will trigger the release of prolactin and therefore trigger increased breast milk production.

Moms only start to feel the increased breast fullness 2 – 3 days after birth. (Up to 5 days in Moms who have had a c-section, or who have various issues such as PCOS or diabetes)

When your body is signaled to start producing milk, the hormone Oxytocin is released, and this causes the milk to be pushed out of the breast.

Read more about breastfeeding hormones here.

After lactogenesis 2, there is a switch to your autocrine system. This process of milk production is called lactogenesis 3. This is the maintenance stage of milk production, in which breastmilk production is controlled via supply and demand. The more baby drinks, the more milk mom will produce.

Read more on the anatomy of the lactating breast.

Need a more in depth explination of the stages of lactation?

Click Here

Milk Synthesis is Controlled in the following way

* When your breasts are full, milk production slows down.

* When your breasts are empty, milk production is sped up.

Your breasts will usually be very full the first few days, as your body does not know yet how much your baby actually needs, but as time goes by, your breasts adapt to your baby’s needs.

Breast Milk Supply Throughout the Day

Milk volume is higher in the mornings and gradually decreases throughout the day. Breast milk also becomes fattier as the day progresses.

Increasing my Breastmilk Production

Moms that want to increase their milk supply, will need to ensure that their breasts are drained after every feeding, this is to increase speed of milk synthesis.

How to Increase Breast Milk Production:

* Empty your breast after each nursing session and even between nursing sessions.

* Fenugreek can be used - Read more on Fenugreek here.

Breastfeeding on demand.

* Using Galactagogues (herbal and drug).

* Using breast massage and gentle breast compression during breastfeeding, will also help increase milk production.

* Ensuring that your baby has a good latch, will effectively drain the breasts, therefore, increasing your milk supply. 

* Do not skip night feeds.

* Keep stress to the minimum.

* More tips here on the initiation of lactation.

Decreasing my Breastmilk Production

“block nursing” – Discussed on the oversupply page.

The Composition of Breast Milk Over Time

Your breast milk changes as your baby grows. The fat volume also increases as your baby becomes older; as baby needs the extra fat.

A mom passes all her immune benefits over to her baby too. Babies receive gut protection via the breast milk too. 

What is Foremilk and Hind milk?

Foremilk is the milk that has collected in the front of your breast's milk producing cells and is the milk that a baby receives at the beginning of a feed.

Hind milk, is the fattier milk that has collected at the back of the milk producing cells and is the milk that a baby receives gradually as the breastfeeding session continues.

Baby should drain one breast, before offering the other one.

Read more about foremilk and hind milk imbalance.

Other pages on "breastfeeding problems" in connection with breastmilk production

- First time breastfeeding moms

- Breastfeeding after a c section

- Low milk supply

- Relax during breastfeeding

- The importance of colostrum

- Pumping exclusively

- Breastfeeding after breast surgery

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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.