How your breasts make and give milk
How often will baby need feeding?
- The skin covering the nipple contains many nerves that are triggered by the baby’s sucking. This causes hormones to be released into the mother’s bloodstream.
- One of these hormones (prolactin) acts on the milk-making tissue, building up the milk supply.
- The other hormone (oxytocin) causes the breast to push out or release the milk already there.
- This release of milk is known as the let-down reflex (sometimes called the milk ejection reflex).
- The more often your baby’s sucking causes a let-down and the more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk will be made.
- Respond to your baby’s feeding cues. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
- Breastfeed your baby often.
- Don’t limit time at the breast or delay the time between feeds. A well drained breast ensures more milk is made quickly.
- The breasts are never completely empty.
- Babies stop feeding when they have had enough, while at the same time, your breasts are already at work making more milk.
- Whatever your baby drinks is automatically replaced, producing a constant supply, perfectly matched to her need, whenever she needs it.
Breastmilk changes throughout the feed
- You may be surprised at how often your baby needs a feed.
- Breastmilk is easily and quickly digested because your baby’s system is designed to have human milk.
- A baby’s stomach is about the size of her clenched fist.
- Babies feed often — it is normal for a young baby to need 8–12 breastfeeds or more in a 24-hour period.
- Some of these feeds will be at night.
- Your supply meets your baby’s needs if you breastfeed your baby whenever she seems hungry or fussy. Sometimes she may only need to suck for a few minutes, while at other times she may need to suck for longer.
- Early in the feed, the milk has a lower fat content. This helps to quench the baby’s thirst and looks a little like skim cows’ milk. It is like the soup of a three-course meal and is sometimes referred to as ‘foremilk’.
- As the feed goes on and the let-down occurs (and your baby gets the main course), the fat content of the milk rises.
- The creamy milk coming from the breast near the end of a feed is sometimes called ‘hindmilk’. The milk taken after the let-down has occurred satisfies your baby’s hunger. The creamy milk right at the end of the feed is like your baby’s dessert.
- A baby who is allowed to finish the first breast, so that he feeds until he comes off by himself before being offered the second breast, receives the right balance of both foremilk and hindmilk.
- At times your baby may be satisfied with just one breast, at others he may also want the second side, or even a third,
- By switching which breast you feed from first, you will ensure each breast keeps making a good amount of milk.
From Australian Breastfeeding Association