How Does Breastfeeding Work?

6/26/2018

Have you ever stopped to think about how breast milk is made and the process that goes on in your body to provide those sweet breastfeeding moments with your little one? Let’s talk about your body and how breastfeeding works!

How Does Breastfeeding Work?

The hormone progesterone plays a key role in breastfeeding – both when you’re pregnant and after you give birth. While you’re still pregnant, there's more progesterone in your body than usual, which helps stop your breasts from releasing the milk that is building up. If you happened to notice some leakage during pregnancy, don’t worry – that’s totally normal! Towards the end of your pregnancy, your breasts will feel “full.” That’s the colostrum (nutrient-packed “first milk”) beginning to be produced! Once you give birth, a couple of things happen to allow your milk to flow: the hormone prolactin increases, and progesterone levels drop. The first few breastfeeding meals after birth are small for baby, but full of that liquid gold – colostrum – and all the vital nutrients your newborn needs.

How Breast Milk Is Made

Breast milk is produced in the glandular tissue (alveoli) of the breasts. The smooth muscle tissue around each tiny milk-producing cell contracts when hormones are released. Letdown occurs when these contractions propel milk down the milk ducts to the openings in the nipple, and is triggered by your baby’s cry and touch, nipple stimulation, and sucking. During a feeding, you’ll have several letdowns, but during the first letdown you may notice a tingling or throbbing sensation in your breasts. This is totally normal and is caused by the milk ducts dilating as your milk flows. Since milk production operates on a supply=demand basis, frequent breastfeeding will stimulate milk production and keep your supply up.

Fun Fact!

As your baby grows, your breast milk changes to keep up with your baby’s nutritional needs.

It’s a beautiful, amazing, and fascinating process that makes breastfeeding your baby possible. As a breastfeeding mom, you should be proud of the incredible nutrition you are providing for your little one!