Breastfeeding and its Physiology
Breast milk is agreed to be the most recommended milk for newborns because of its benefits to both the mother and the newborn. What is the physiology of breastfeeding?
Acinar cells or alveolar cells are responsible for the formation of breast milk.
Progesterone levels fall after the placenta is delivered, leading to the stimulation of prolactin.
Prolactin stimulates the production of milk.
On the fourth month of pregnancy, the acinar cells start producing colostrums, which is full of nutrients for the newborn.
Colostrum production continues for the first 3 to 4 days after birth.
Transitional breast milk replaces colostrums on the 2nd to 4th
True or mature breast milk is produced on the 10th
Milk flows through its reservoirs, the lactiferous sinuses, which are located behind the nipple.
Foremilk is the constantly forming milk.
When the infant sucks at the breast, oxytocin is released and the collecting sinuses of the mammary glands contract.
Milk is forced forward through the nipples, and this action is called the letdown reflex.
Let down reflex can be triggered by thinking about the baby or whenever the mother hears a baby crying.
After the letdown reflex, new milk or hind milk is formed, and it has higher fat than foremilk.
Hind milk makes the infant grow more rapidly than foremilk.
Oxytocin also helps in the contraction of the uterus so that the woman will feel a small tugging or cramping in the lower pelvis on the first few days of breastfeeding.
Advantages of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding must also depend on the preference of both the woman and her baby, so both of them could enjoy the experience and gain benefits as well.
Advantages for the Infant
Breast milk contains immunoglobulin A which binds viruses and bacteria so they will not be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the infant.
Lactoferrin, which is from the breast milk, also interferes with the growth of pathogens.
An enzyme from the breast milk, the lysozyme, destroys bacteria by lysing their cell membranes.
Leukocytes in the breast milk provide protection against common respiratory infections.
Macrophages that produce interferons protects against common viruses.
Lactobacillus bifidus in breast milk prevents colonization of pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the incidence of diarrhea.
Breast milk contains the ideal composition of electrolytes and minerals for infant growth.
Rapid brain growth in the infants is achieved because breast milk is high in lactose which provides ready glucose.
Breast milk also contains linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid for skin integrity.
The levels of nutrients are enough to supply the infant’s needs and also spare the infant’s kidneys from processing a high renal solute load of unused nutrients.
Breast milk is free from allergens, unlike cow’s milk.
Calcium is regulated better in newborns that are breastfed.
Breastfeeding prevents excessive weight gain in infants.
Advantages for the Mother
Breastfeeding helps prevents breast cancer.
Oxytocin aids in uterine involution as it helps the uterus contract.
Breastfeeding empowers women because only women can master it.
Feeding and preparation time is greatly reduced.
The bond between the mother and the baby is strengthened