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Breast milk and breast feeding

Breast-feeding plays an important role in the development of the baby. Breast milk means nutrition for the baby and body contact with the mother. In a word Life itself!


 How does lactation work? 

Change in the texture of breast milk


How does lactation work?

Each breast comprises up to 20 lobules, which contain fascicules of lactific glands. Hormones stimulate their operation, and breast milk drains into the nipples through tiny channels. The milk is stored largely by the ducts of the areola. This area is the darker area around the nipple. When babies breast-feed they put both the nipple and the areola in their mouths and milk flows out from the ducts through the nipple. The first milk the breasts produce is the colostrum, which is produced for about three days.

The colostrum, otherwise known as first milk is very valuable for the baby because it contains a high amount of protein and antibodies. These maternal antibodies protect the newborn and develop a strong immune system.  First milk cannot be substituted with other women’s milk or cows’ milk with the same result. The colostrum also works as a laxative and helps clear the meconium. Meconium is the earliest dark green stool of a newborn. Colostrum is gradually replaced by bluish-white mature milk. Its first part is the watery foremilk, when breast-feeding continues the glands will secrete post-milk as an effect of hormonal stimulation. Mothers mention a tingling sensation at this stage, which they feel in their breasts. This is a normal phenomenon.

Change in the substance of the milk

At the beginning of breast feeding milk is sweeter (rich in lactose), its energy content is lower, thus it has a thirst quenching and mild laxative effect, while towards the end of breast feeding it is rich in fat, has a high calorific content, and thus is more filling. Milk produced in the morning hours has high fat and low sugar and protein content, and there is less of it, from midday the protein and sugar content becomes higher and more milk is produced.

The gastric juices of newborns operate inadequately. They are unable to fully break down any kind of protein; this is why animal milk or sometimes the milk of other women may cause allergic symptoms. The most perfect milk for any mammal is provided by their own birth mother. Babies need their own mother’s milk; this is what makes them grow the best, irrespective of whether the milk appears to be light and thin or thick and yellow. If the baby suckles a lot the milk is thinner, and if they consume more it is thicker, so always exactly the sort they need. Expressed milk, the milk from the mother of a baby of unknown age does not satisfy this demand.

Why is mothers’ milk important?

The wonderful harmony, which regulates the balance between the baby’s readiness to suckle and the mother’s milk production, cannot be substituted with anything else, nor imitated by any technical wonder. Mothers’ milk is clean, germ-free, and contains protective substances and immune cells, which give protection against infections and enteritis. It is at an even body temperature. It is always fresh. Babies can consume it according to their appetite so overfeeding rarely occurs. Babies who can breast-feed according to their needs don’t need additional fluid intake (tea, water, lemonade) nor a soothing dummy. In an ideal case babies are breast fed to six months of age, with the addition of vitamins K and D, with additional herbal tea, fruit juice or iron if necessary. It is also very good if they suckle for at least three months, but we can say that mothers’ milk is indispensable for the first six weeks. If we consider that a newborn eats about 50 grams, and a six-week-old baby about 120-150 grams at a time, there is hardly any time when there isn’t at least half a decilitre or one or two decilitres of milk in the two breasts. Even a little is better than nothing, there is a little protective substance even in a few drops.

The psychology of breast feeding

Put the baby to the breast to ensure the continuity of bodily contact between mother and child, or to develop physical and spiritual contact, which is so very important for healthy personality development. Every breast is suitable for breast-feeding. Don’t be downhearted. The suckling reflex of newborns is so strong that they are capable of attaching themselves to small or inverted nipples as well, and enclose the areola with their lips like suction pads; their mothers merely need a little more patience. Feed the baby more often (every two hours), and only five minutes from each breast, but do not start bottle-feeding them. Frequent and long breast-feeding will soften the nipples, which will then chap, crack and become sore. You can use nipple protectors (until the sore heals) or a manual breast pump to erect the nipples. The two breasts are not the same size, they do not produce the same amount of milk either, nor do the two nipples leak evenly. The babies will select their favourite side and will suckle more from that one and with more pleasure. If the baby’s eyes are open make eye contact with him, smile at him, talk to him, so that he will connect the joy of eating and the pleasure of feeling full with the sight of his mother, with the sensation of hearing the mother’s voice, feeling and smelling her skin. If possible burping should be performed in the safety and protective embrace of the father.

Should your baby be one of those rare exceptions who do not get a chance to suckle, and cannot get his own mother’s milk, give preference to formula in the first half-year. The selection and use of the formula should be done on the advice of the doctor.



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