You have the ability to make milk. It starts long before your newborn arrives.
In your very first weeks as a fetus, mammary buds began forming, like a small tree. (For boys, too). During puberty these glands grew in response to female hormones. During pregnancy, more growth happens. At the same time, however, the placenta is sending a hormonal message to inhibit milk-making. You don’t need it (milk) yet. The body is focused on growing the baby first.
When your baby is born, then the placenta after that, the message is sent: “Bring the milk, the baby’s here”. There is no need to ‘wait for your milk to come in’. It’s ready as soon as your baby is born and you can start feeding. If your baby is born early, you will have preterm milk, and that is just right for your preterm baby.
Right from the start, you have what your baby needs. It’s true.
On the first day, your baby’s stomach can hold about ten milliliters* at a time. That’s a wee stomach. You can understand why they feed often, ten times a day is normal. As your baby feeds more, your body gets the signal to make more milk.
While breastfeeding you are holding your baby skin-to -skin which raises your prolactin levels. That, in turn, promotes milk production. Frequent suckling also stimulates more milk production. Skin-to-skin and feeding often, especially in the first hours and beyond, boosts your ‘milk-making’ hormones. See how this works? Time and frequent feeding is all good for you and the baby.
In the first days your breasts won’t feel very full because they don’t need to be yet. After about four days of feeding often, you will feel that fullness. That is a good sign, something to look forward to, because it means your body is making milk. Feeling full then softer after a feeding is a good sign that your baby is getting milk into the belly. These are signals you can read from your own body.
Skin to skin keeps your baby warm and calm. Thus, your baby doesn’t burn extra calories. Suckling causes your uterus to contract so you don’t bleed too much. You help your baby and your baby helps you. Mothers and babies work well together. These basic principles work for sick and premature babies, too.
It’s good to know about this before your baby is born. Mothers with particular hormonal imbalances may need help with milk production. Severe blood loss and a retained placenta can also inhibit milk production. And then, we also need to look at how well the baby is feeding. Sometimes they have trouble, too.
I always suggest prenatal education so you can be proactive. Nonetheless, if you have any concerns, let’s look at what’s happening sooner than later and make the most of your natural abilities.
*one teaspoon is about five milliliters.