Breastfeeding Series: How does breastfeeding work?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lactation consultant. I am also not trying to shame mothers who don’t/didn’t and/or can’t/couldn’t breastfeed. I am just sharing information and my experience.

Over the next few weeks, I will be running a series about breastfeeding. It is something that I can’t stop talking about and can’t talk enough about. As many of you know, I am a new mom and my son is exclusively breastfed.

The purpose of this post is to educate you on how breastfeeding works. I think that it is a magical thing to breastfeed and the way the woman’s body works to produce breastmilk, and change to fit the baby’s needs, is incredible. In today’s society, a woman’s breasts are oversexualized and that is not what their purpose is. Our breasts are to nourish our babies, it’s just that over time, they became something sexual and for men to ogle over.

The areola around the nipple, the darker skin, is what babies use to find the nipple. When I am feeding my son, I notice that first he feels my breast against his cheek and then turns his head and finds the nipple himself. There is little effort on my part other than holding my breasts for him since they are quite large. Latching is one deterrent of breastfeeding for many moms. When a baby doesn’t latch properly, it is quite painful and many women think that it is just painful and quit instead of realizing that the baby is just not latching correctly.

I won’t lie and say that it doesn’t hurt because in the beginning it did, a lot. I would pump just to keep from having to nurse. After about a couple of weeks, it’s not painful. That pain is not long lasting. What pushed me to continue was I knew that this was best for my baby. Another kind of pain is when the baby sucks, your uterus contracts and it feels like period cramps. Soon after birth, this pain is unbearable, but as your body heals and your organs return to their homes, the pain goes away.

When the baby sucks, two hormones are released: prolactin, which stimulates milk production and oxytocin, which causes the contraction of the lobules that hold the milk inside. All of that just from the saliva of our baby on our nipple. Our babies tell the milk to come down just be sucking. Isn’t that amazing? This entire process is called the let-down reflex. I know when my son cries, I get a let-down reflex and begin to leak.

Breast milk is then produced as your baby grows, as a response. The saliva from the baby tells your body how much milk the baby needs and what it should consist of. For example, if your baby is sick or getting sick, your baby’s saliva let’s your body know and then you body takes more of your antibodies to produce in the breastmilk in order to give to your baby. Mind blown.

I also found out that in other countries, babies aren’t even given milk first. They’re given other liquids or solids like water, sugar water, or traditional medicines, before being breastfed. I have to do more research as to why they do that because that is mind boggling to think to give a baby anything other than breastmilk. It is called prelactyl feeding, basically before breastfeeding feeding, which is especially dangerous because it can lead to internal diseases of the intestines, as well as diarrhea, dehydration and even death.

I plan to breastfeed my baby for at least a year.

Check back next Monday for the next installment of this series, Benefits and Challenges of Breastfeeding.

For more information on breastfeeding,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breastfeeding

https://www.parents.com/baby/breastfeeding/

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