ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Hormones involved in Lactation and milk supply

Updated on June 19, 2013

For many women breastfeeding is not as easy as it sounds and takes some practice. It's a learning curve for both you and your baby. Here this article explains how breastmilk is made and if you are struggling with your milk supply there are a few useful tips to help increase this.

There are 2 hormones involved in the production of breast milk

Prolactin

When a baby sucks at the breast, impulses that are fed to your brain secretes prolactin, this is then transported in the blood to the breast where it tells the cells in the breast to start producing milk.

The milk producing cells in the breast have 'magnets' or receptors that attract the prolactin to them, but they need to be primed first in order for more milk to be produced. They are most sensitive immediately following the birth and that's why it is most important for baby to initiate breastfeeding or skin to skin contact immediately after delivery.

If these 'magnets' are not primed the resultant milk supply will remain at a low level for the duration of breastfeeding so early and frequent breastfeeding in the first few days is important to ensure a good milk supply, both then and later.

Prolactin levels remain high for 90 mins after a feed and make the breast produce more milk for the next feed.

  • If baby suckles more then the breasts will produce more milk.
  • If baby suckles less then she will produce less milk.
  • If baby stops sucking then your breasts will soon stop making any milk.

It is quite normal for the first 24 hours to produce minimum amounts of colostrum, it may only be a few drops initially but the more you feed your baby the more milk will start to come through with correct positioning and attachment.


Breast Anatomy and the Lactation cycle

Oxytocin

Think of this hormone acting upon muscles in your body, it is the same hormone that acts upon your uterus to contract in labour (contractions). It is also known as the let down reflex.

In breastfeeding, the milk producing cells are surrounded by very small muscles, when baby suckles on the breast the sensory impulses from the nipple is sent to the brain which releases oxytocin into the blood stream.

This then acts upon the muscles that surround the milk producing cells to contract. This propels the milk out of the breast when the baby suckles.

  • Oxytocin is produced more quickly than prolactin but enough is stored in the breast for each feed.
  • The oxytocin reflex (or let down reflex) is easily triggered off and affected by other factors not only breastfeeding.
  • The mothers thoughts, feelings and emotions can affect the flow of milk.
  • If mum is feeling positive towards her baby, thinking lovingly and feeling confident that her breast milk is good for her baby, then this will help get a really good flow of milk.
  • Sometimes even a crying baby or the thoughts of feeding a baby can trigger off the Oxytocin reflex, therefore mums that are separated from their babies in Neonatal care can express their milk with a photo of their baby next to them.

It is very important to have your baby with you at all times so that the production of milk is maximised.


How to overcome a fall in milk supply

Frequent feeding or expression will speed up the milk production by removing the protein each time, whereas infrequent or restricted suckling will slow it down.


The following points about how breast milk is produced is important for the mother to know:

  1. Early and frequent feeding in the first few days will encourage the prolactin magnets to become primed, ensuring a good milk supply.
  2. Prolactin levels are higher at night, and a breastfeed during the night will produce a larger surge of prolactin than one given during the day so night feeding is important to keep the milk supply going.
  3. Being near to baby will keep the mothers milk flow going.
  4. Allowing baby to feed as long as he wants will ensure effective removal of milk and maintain milk supply.

Other Factors affecting milk supply

  1. Breast milk production is mainly controlled by hormones from the brain but each breast can control the amounts of milk is made.
  2. It is possible for one breast to stop making milk and the other to continue, even though the same amounts of hormones are being produced. This is down to a protein contained within the milk in each breast that can reduce or even stop milk production.
  3. If the breast contains a lot of milk, this protein acts to slow down further production so that the breasts don't become too full. If breast milk is removed by feeding or expressing then the levels of this protein falls and more milk is made.


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)