How does my baby get nourishment from breast milk?
What is colostrum anyway?
Colostrum is the first milk your breasts produce. It appears yellow because it contains a high level of carotene, a form of vitamin A. Colostrum is low in fat and high in protein, and is easy for your baby to digest. As early as the second trimester of pregnancy, your breasts will begin making colostrum. WARNING: small amounts of colostrum may leak from your nipples, this is normal!
Colostrum is the way mommies provide their babies with essential proteins, vitamins and minerals, as well as antibodies that protect your newborn from bacteria and viruses. Colostrum works in many ways inside your baby’s body. It coats the intestines and seals up any tiny holes. It acts as a laxative to help your baby expel the first tar-like stools known as meconium. (Eliminating meconium helps reduce the risk of jaundice.)
How do you get from colostrum to breast milk?
Several days after the birth of your child, your breasts will begin to produce larger amounts of milk. This milk will be thinner, whiter and higher in calories than colostrum. Frequently nursing your baby soon after birth will encourage the production of breast milk.
After the beginning of a feeding, your breasts produce low-fat milk. This milk is high in protein and lactose. As you continue to breastfeed, your breasts produce high-fat milk. This milk is higher in calories and fat, and helps keep the baby satiated while also supporting good weight gain.
How do I make breast milk?
When your baby starts sucking on your breasts, he or she stimulates the nerves in your nipple and areola. Your brain responds to this by releasing hormones that activate the milk-producing cells that release milk into the ducts of your breasts. This chain of events is known as the milk-ejection reflex, or “let down.”
Maintaining a full supply of milk can be achieved by breastfeeding frequently. Milk removal causes more milk to be produced. You can also encourage milk production by allowing your baby to finish the first breast before offering the second. Doing this helps your infant receive the proper balance of low-fat milk and high-fat milk.
As your breasts fill with milk, they may become swollen, hard, warm and painful. This condition is called engorgement and it is temporary. Breastfeeding frequently is the best way to relieve engorgement.
You can also find relief by placing a warm, moist washcloth on your breasts before breastfeeding, and then placing an ice pack wrapped in a towel on your breasts after each nursing session. Only use ice in cases when your engorgement is very painful and not resolving with nursing or pumping. Using ice to excess can decrease milk supply.
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