Physiology of breastfeeding
As natural as breastfeeding is for our bodies, it certainly doesn’t feel natural in the beginning. Believe it or not, we aren’t born instinctively knowing how to do this, so having an abundance of knowledge, practice and support is crucial for long-term success. We strongly suggest contacting a local lactation consultant, as even experienced mothers encounter roadblocks. Please understand that it will most likely be a bumpy start, but it will soon feel like second nature once you get going.
- The way breastfeeding works is when the baby suckles on the nipple, the pituitary gland secretes a hormone known as prolactin, which then stimulates milk gland cells to produce milk in the breast.
- Then the hormone oxytocin is released, causing the cells around the milk gland to squeeze milk out of the nipples, causing a “let-down,” often characterized by:
- Feeling of fullness in the breasts
- Warm upper body sensation
- Let-downs can also be caused by:
- Hearing your baby – or any baby! – cry
- Thinking of your baby when you’re away or looking at his or her picture – one of the most blatant examples of “mind over matter” your body will ever experience
- Seeing and/or smelling other babies
- Manual expression or a breast pump
- Warm water, though typically only in the beginning of breastfeeding