The anatomy of the breast includes several structures such as the nipple, areola, mammary tissue, connective tissue, fat, blood vessels, lymphatic structures, and nerves. In breastfeeding, the mammary tissue has two structures:
- the alveoli (small sacs that contain milk secreting cells)
- the duct (carries milk out of the body).
Between feeding sessions, the milk collects in the alveoli and ducts. There are also muscle cells that function to contract to help the milk flow. On average, each nipple has nine milk ducts, muscle fibers, and nerves. The areola (the circular pigmented area) surrounds the nipple. The Montgomery’s glands are located in the areola and functions to secrete an oily fluid which will protect the nipple and areola during lactation. It also produces an individual scent attracting the baby to the breast.
Why the Body Produces Milk
The production of milk is nature’s way of nourishing and protecting your child. The 33% of the estimated 9.5 million deaths in children younger than 5 years old in the year 2006. Inappropriate or inadequate nutrition can also cause obesity or stunting of growth. It has been proven that children who are malnourished will have impaired intellectual performance, reduced ability to work (physically), and affected reproductive capacity (women). Women with the affected reproductive capability may have babies with low birth weight and suffer more complications during delivery. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect the child from diseases.
Composition of Breast Milk
Breast milk has the complete nutrition that a baby needs in the first six months. It contains 3.5 grams per 100 ml of fat providing energy for the baby. The fat also has long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) that are important for the child’s neurological development. While these fatty acids are also available in infant formula, it may not be as effective as those present in breast milk.
It also contains 7 grams of lactose per 100 ml which contributes to energy. Oligosaccharides are sugar chains that help protect the child against infection. Protein wise, breast milk contains amounts of amino acids that are more suitable for a baby when compared to other milks. It is easily digested and prevents the child from becoming intolerant to other milks. It contains vitamins that the infant needs unless the mother is deficient. The only vitamin not available in breast milk is vitamin D that requires the baby to be exposed to sunlight.
To help protect the baby against infection, breast milk contains immunoglobulins primarily immunoglobulin A that coats the intestinal mucosa and stops bacteria from entering the cells. There are also white blood cells that kill pathogens; lysozyme and lactoferrin that kill bacteria, virus, and fungi; and oligosaccharides preventing bacteria that attaches to mucosal surfaces. Since these antibodies protect against infection that the mother has been through. This is important as it would protect the child against bacteria that are present in the same environment. In colostrum (milk that is secreted the first 2-3 days after delivery), t is rich with white cells, antibodies, protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins in at much higher levels than later milk.
How Much Milk Do You Produce?
In the first month, you would be producing less milk. However, if it goes well, the milk production increases from 30 ml on day one to 900 ml on day forty. Know that your body takes time to respond to breastfeeding and while it may be at small amounts at first, the amount will increase with time. There are some factors that can affect the yield of milk such as: the age of the baby, duration since the last feeding session, time of day, emotional state, capacity for milk storage, and exclusivity if you are breastfeeding or not.
Newborns have very small stomachs and in the first week, most babies only take 30 to 60 ml of milk. After a month, at about 4 to 5 weeks, the baby will have a peak volume of 90 to 120 ml. this eventually increases to 900 ml a day.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will produce more milk as normal. In cases where formula is given along with breast milk, the milk production will be lower.
- Duration since last feeding sensation
It takes time for your body to produce milk. If you are pumping breast milk for your baby, you would have about 45 to 60 ml if you pump between regular feedings while you can get 90 to 120 ml if you are pumping for a missed feeding.
- Time of day
Your milk production caries throughout the day. Therefore, babies adapt to this by feeding more frequently if there is less milk (afternoon and evening) and feeding less often when there is more milk (morning).
- Emotional state
If you have negative feelings such as being angry, upset, or stressed, the release of adrenaline in your system can inhibit milk flow.
- Capacity for milk storage
Contrary to popular belief, your capacity for milk storage does not depend on breast size but rather on the room available in the glands that produce milk. This capacity differs for every woman.
What to Do If I’m Producing Too Much Milk
Many mothers often face the issue of not being able to produce enough milk for their baby. If you are having excess milk production, there is always something you can do to solve that problem. If you have to relieve the fullness, you can pump or express the milk. Only do this if you absolutely have to as pumping sends signals to your body to produce more milk. It has also been said that drinking sage tea before bed can help lower your milk supply. You should stop this once you notice your milk supply starts to decrease. If there is a milk bank around your area, you can also donate to one. The extra milk can be used to help sick or premature babies with mothers who cannot produce milk. Usually HIV and hepatitis testing will be required but the testing and arrangement of transport for the milk will be provided. Eventually, most cases of having too much milk resolves as your baby grows and can take more milk.
If you are having issues with leaking, you can try a breast milk leakage inhibitor system (BLIS). Mothers who breastfeed usually use nursing pads to help absorb leakage. However, if it isn’t changed frequent enough, the pads can cause wet clothing, sore nipples, infection, and discomfort. Now, there is a new product (BLIS) that has a soft and flexible disc that helps to control leakage using gentle pressure on the nipple to prevent it from leaking and causing wetness on the skin and clothes. It is safe and as effective as binding. It can be worn anytime to help control leakage. You can look at the product through this site.
Tips for Storing Excess Milk
Before you start, make sure your hands are clean by washing with soap and water. You can store the excess milk in a clean container that is glass or hard plastic (BPA-free). There are also special plastic bags that are designed for the collection and storage of breast milk. However, since these plastic bags may tear and become contaminated, glass and hard plastic are still the first choices. After collection, all containers should be labeled with your baby’s name and date you expressed the milk. Containers should be placed furthest in the back of the fridge or freezer as the temperature is coolest there. It can be stored in an insulated cooler temporarily.
Fill the containers according to feeding portions. You can start with 60 to 120 ml and adjust accordingly. You should also store smaller portions such as 30 to 60 ml for situations where the baby might need an extra feed. Since the milk expands when frozen, containers should not be filled to the brim. Freshly expressed milk can be kept for up to 6 hours in room temperature (4 hours optimal), insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours, back of the fridge for up to 5 days (3 days optimal), and back of the freezer for up to 12 months (6 months optimal).
You should thaw the oldest milk you have in storage by placing it in the fridge one night before you want to use it. It can be placed under warm water. Remember to not heat the milk in the microwave or stove as some researchers believe that it can affect the antibodies. Experts also recommend that thawed milk that is not used in 24 hours should be discarded. For more information, click here!