Table of content:
Lactation - what is it?
The most common problems with lactation
How to properly latch a child?
How to get advice from a lactation consultant?
Irreplaceable help during lactation - Mamatu breastfeeding clothes
Lactation - what is it? A division into stages: learn about the principles of the prolactin and oxytocin reflexes
Lactation is the result of the proper functioning of the mammary glands in breastfeeding women, thanks to which we can easily latch their babies. The whole production process and the milk flow through the milk ducts to the nipple is a sign of proper lactation. It is divided into two basic stages described below.
A prolactin reflex
The prolactin reflex is a mother's body reflex, which results in the production of breast milk. This reflex is initiated by a newborn baby who, by latching on, stimulates sensory nerve endings located on the surface of the nipple. The nerve signals produced in this way are transported to the hypothalamus, i.e. part of the brain responsible for parental behavior. From there, they are passed straight to the pituitary gland, where the production process of a hormone called prolactin takes place. Prolactin is a hormone responsible for many important changes in a woman's body. Among other things, it causes that during puberty, girls grow breasts, and also maintain the production of progesterone necessary for the proper maintenance of pregnancy. This hormone is also responsible for milk production in the breasts of nursing mothers. The process in which prolactin is released is the first phase of lactation, also known as the prolactin reflex.
In order to keep the lactation at the correct level, it is necessary to latch the baby as often as possible and allow it to suck. If lactation does not work properly, prolactin production may stop. The reasons for lactation disorders can be really many, the most common being artificial feeding of the baby or feeding the baby with a pacifier.
After the prolactin reflex responsible for the initiation of the process of food production, the time comes for the oxytocin reflex. Newly produced food is transported through milk ducts to the nipples. The letdown is due to the action of oxytocin, or the hormone stored in the back of the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is mainly responsible for causing uterine muscle contractions that facilitate labor and when it comes to it - contraction of the uterus to its original condition. It is also a hormone that makes the milk flow out of the nipples (the letdown reflex). Oxytocin activity in this dimension is called the oxytocin reflex and is the second and last stage of the properly working lactation process.
As long as lactation is normal, it is considered one of the most natural processes in the life of every woman. Problems arise when milk production is disturbed due to various factors. What does spontaneous milk supply crisis do and how to deal with it?
The disappearance of food for physiological reasons only occurs in 1-5% of cases. The remaining women usually suffer from temporary problems with lactation, which can be solved with the use of various types of lactation teas, support for professional counselors, and above all by latching the baby correctly.
The physiological reasons that may cause the problem of agalactia include, among others:
- undeveloped mammary gland - a problem that occurs during the development of the bust, usually at the stage of fetal life or during the adolescence of a given woman; usually only applies to one breast;
- previous operations and other breast surgeries;
- hormonal problems mainly including the effects of the pituitary gland;
- difficult emotional states: severe stress, depression, mourning, trauma, shock - symptoms should subside with the return to mental balance;
- thyroid problems;
- significant body dehydration;
- strict diet exhausting the body;
- getting pregnant again;
- taking hormonal medicines.
If the disappearance of food occurs in a woman who does not identify with any of the above-mentioned factors, it is probably a milk supply crisis.
Milk supply crisis - what does it mean?
A milk supply crisis is a temporary shortage of food usually associated with the process of shaping the body of a child when the so-called growth spurt occurs. These are the moments when the nutritional needs of a toddler begin to change - along with them, the mother's body also adapts to the new situation. It starts to produce more food with an increased calorific value to be able to meet all the needs of the growing toddler. However, before this happens, the glands must "recover" and switch to a new mode. The milk supply crisis resulting from the growth spurt in child's development occurs in the majority of nursing mothers in the 3rd and 6th week and in the 6th and 9th months of the child's life.
The worst possible mistake made up against the first symptoms of a milk supply crisis is refusing to latch the child and immediately applying artificial milk to him. This is a simple way to effectively discourage natural breastfeeding, so do not panic when hard and bulging breasts become soft and much smaller.
What to do to stimulate milk production and restore food supply in the breasts?
First of all - learn how to properly latch your baby. Frequent latching helps to overcome milk supply crisis. All thanks to the stimulation of the previously mentioned prolactin reflex. Therefore, the child should be latched as often as possible, even every 1.5 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night. Feeding after sunset is particularly effective because it is at night that the concentration of the prolactin hormone in the body is the highest. We recommend that during the milk supply crisis, you should focus only on the child and stay with him most of the day, if possible, and try to systematically stimulate lactation. During breastfeeding, give your child both breasts, starting with the one that the baby latched on last. Do not decide to replace breastfeeding with a portion of modified milk, and especially served from a bottle with a teat. The child very quickly gets used to the new, less costly method of feeding and does not want to suck on the breasts, which is the simplest way to the complete disappearance of lactation.
Supporting lactation will not happen without learning to properly latch. Food production works on the principle of supply and demand - our brain needs to receive specific signals related to initiating the process of milk accumulation, otherwise, lactation will disappear. That is why regular and systematic work on shaping your child's proper sucking reflex is so important. How to correctly latch a child?
For the breastfeeding process to take place correctly, two basic factors must be taken care of. Above all - a comfortable position of the mother. It takes a lot of time to latch a child, so it is important to maintain a loose and relaxed posture. We avoid bending your back, bending over your child and any other uncomfortable positions. When a mother sits or lies comfortably, it's time to lay down the child. It is important to touch the mother's body with the baby's tummy. The face of a toddler should be directed to the breast, and the position of his head should constitute a natural extension of the child's spine. The nursing mother supports and protects the child with her hand at the level of the head, back, and buttocks.
When we reach the most convenient and safe for the baby feeding position, it's time to latch it on to the breast. To do this, release the breast from the bra and grab it with a C-shaped palm, the thumb is placed directly on the chest, while the other fingers support it from the bottom. Then, move your breast to the baby and carefully touch the area just under the child's nipple with your nipple. The correct response to this type of action will be a wide opening of the mouth, hanging out the tongue and grabbing the nipple. How to check if the baby is properly latched on to the breast?
This can be verified thanks to three observations: the tip of the nose and the child's beard should touch the breasts directly, its lips are turned outside, no dimples appear on the cheeks and the baby's face is wide open, forming the shape of a circle, not a "beak". Inside there is not only the nipple itself but also the majority of what's around. If for some reason the attachment is incorrect - between the lips of the baby there is only the nipple, or his lips are tightly clamped and hidden inside - stop breastfeeding and carry out the process of latching back from the beginning. To do this, simply insert your fingertip into the child's corner of the mouth and move away the badly held breast.
After properly latching it on to the breast, make sure that the baby is sucking on the breast properly. We can talk about success in a situation when the toddler from the bottom covers the nipple with a tongue and starts the sucking process. A few energetic, shallow lip movements start the feeding process - this is conditioned by the consumption of the so-called foremilk, i.e. a more diluted food that appears at the beginning of the natural breastfeeding process. The foremilk is used to quench the thirst of the child. The baby's second-phase of breastfeeding contains hindmilk that is denser and full of nutrients. When the child reaches the second phase of breastfeeding, he visibly calms down, and his movements become slower and more balanced. Also, listen to the characteristic sound of milk swallowing.
Can you not stimulate lactation? Get advice from a lactation consultant or seek help at a proper counseling center!
If, despite all efforts, you still have a problem maintaining lactation at the correct level, don't lose hope. Before you give up natural feeding and replace it with much less beneficial for a small body artificial milk, reach for the help of a specialist.
Nursing mothers should always remember that they are not alone with their problems. Problems with running lactation properly on a smaller and larger scale appear in most women at various stages of their breastfeeding adventure. Professional support in such cases is offered by lactation counseling centers. It is best to find the right facility during pregnancy – this way you will avoid feverish looking for a specialist when you really need it.
You can go to a lactation clinic just after giving birth, and with the support of a specialist, learn the correct process of latching a baby on to the breast. We then gain confidence that we will not develop bad habits at home or in our child, for both of you ensuring a hassle-free going through this fascinating stage of relationship that is breastfeeding.
How can a lactation consultant employed in a counseling center help? His main competence is to share knowledge in the field of:
- choosing the most comfortable position for breastfeeding,
- dealing with a child who sleeps during the feeding process does not eat enough (or too much) or has a problem with proper sucking,
- methods of extracting and subsequent storage of fresh food,
- optimal diet matching to the needs of a nursing mother,
- detailed information on the breastfeeding process - how long and how often to latch the baby on to the breast, how to know that the baby is hungry and how to find out if the baby is full,
- methods of maintaining lactation, even when we are planning a temporary separation with the toddler,
- information about the right amount of food - a lactation consultant informs the mother about how to regulate food supply if she has too much or too little,
- health problems directly related to natural feeding, such as injured nipples, painful swelling of the breasts or even inflammation,
- situations in which a mother or a child get sick - the counselor will indicate safe medication and recommend proven home methods that bring relief to the ill. It will also inform you how to safely breastfeed during an illness,
- if necessary, a counselor will also help in the decision to terminate natural breastfeeding and stop lactation.
When looking for a reliable lactation consultant, it is worth paying attention to the certificates confirming the competence of a given specialist. This is proof of the completion of a professional training which guarantees the highest level of current knowledge supported by experience. A certified lactation counselor knows more about breastfeeding and related problems than most doctors or midwives. Not everyone remembers this, hence the cases of frequent abandonment of natural feeding in women, who didn't get help to maintain lactation, although with a professional support it would be possible.
When a mum manages to overcome lactation problems, there is still something she can do to make breastfeeding even easier and more enjoyable. We are talking about wearing special clothing, thanks to which latching a child on to the breast becomes extremely comfortable and trouble-free.
Regardless of whether we want to feed during a visit to the shopping center, an evening out with friends or an afternoon spent in the fresh air, we need an outfit that will allow the child comfortable access to the breast without having to take off our clothes. In this task, help can be brought by Mamatu clothes, which were created to bring a relief to the everyday life of nursing mothers.
This is a series of products that have been designed specifically for breastfeeding. The Mamatu offer includes warm and comfortable sweatshirts with a hoodie, which are equipped with a system of discreet zippers, thanks to which it is possible to open only a part of the sweatshirt in order to feed a toddler. In this way, a mom does not reveal areas of her body that are not necessary during the breastfeeding process, so that she does not expose herself to unnecessary stress or even displeased glances of passers-by. There are also comfortable T-shirts with a double layer of fabric (one can be raised up to latch a toddler, the other one safely covers the body) and fashionable dresses perfect for a summer walk as well as a comfortable tunics that go great with leggings for winter.
In a similar way, smart Mamatu breastfeeding blouses have been designed to solve the timeless problem of choosing a tasteful outfit perfect both for a family celebration and business meetings. From now on breastfeeding does not mean that the mom has to appear in uncomfortable, grotesque clothes. With Mamatu clothing, no one will even realize that the clothes are meant for breastfeeding. The latching facilitation system is so discreet that the clothes become fit for all-purpose wearing even after the end of lactation.