« How The Breast Makes Milk » from StarGate Libraries

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How The Breast Makes Milk

The process of inducing lactation isn’t mysterious, nor is it particularly difficult to understand; however, misinformation, (and/or the lack of accurate information), about how milk is produced is one of the biggest causes of failure to lactate. By understanding how the mammary system synthesizes milk and makes it possible to breast feed, the task of inducing lactation becomes not only easier, but also more successful. While there is more than one physical technique of stimulation, there is only one psycho-physiological process to which the mammary system will respond and result in lactation. This article examines how a woman’s emotional state and subconscious thought process interact with the physical elements of the mammary system, making it possible to lactate and breast feed without being pregnant.

Basic Mammary System: Some elements of the mammary system such as, the nipple, areola, milk ducts, milk sinuses, montgomery glands, and mammary glands are utilized only in the process of lactation and breast feeding. While other elements of the mammary system such as, the lymphatic system, nervous system, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thalamus, hormones, and brain are multi-functional, making them not only essential to lactation but also necessary for the normal function of other organs in the body. The brain, (including the secretion and balance of chemical neurotransmitters), is central to all body functions, and paramount in the process of inducing lactation. Note: The uterus is affected by the milk producing hormone oxytocin, but is not part of the milk producing process.

Breast and Mammary Glands: Inside each adult breast, regardless of size or shape, is approximately 4000 tiny milk producing cells or mammary exocrine glands. (Exocrine glands secrete their fluids directly into ducts, while endocrine glands secrete their fluids directly into the bloodstream). Each of the individual exocrine glands consists of a single milk producing cell connected to a tiny bladder like structure called an alveoli sac. Milk is synthesized in the milk producing cells from body fluids, and secreted into the alveoli sacs. The individual exocrine glands, (milk producing cells and alveoli sacs), are clustered together in approximately 40 separate lobes. (Lobes are rounded, sac like structures in the body). Each of these lobes is considered a single mammary gland. These lobes are arranged around the nipple in the shape of a rosette, or like the spokes of a wheel, and connected to the nipple through an elaborate network of interconnecting milk ducts and milk sinuses. The remainder breast is made up of fat and body fluids, which give support to the mammary glands, milk ducts, and blood vessels. Note: The size and shape of a woman’s breast does not increase, nor decrease her ability to induce lactation or the amount of milk she may be able to produce.

Nipple, Areola, Milk ducts and Hormones: The interconnecting network of milk ducts culminate behind the nipple into approximately 15 to 30 milk sinuses. (Milk sinuses are small enlargements at the end of each milk duct, which store minute amounts of milk). It is from these sinuses that milk is suckled through the nipple. Small pimple like bumps which appear on the surface of the areola are montgomery glands, which during lactation become slightly enlarged, and secrete a substance that helps lubricate and protect the nipple and areola. When being stimulated by massage or suckling, nerves contained within the skin of the nipple and areola send signals, (in the form of electrical impulses), to the brain. These electrical impulses signal for the release of the essential milk producing hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin and oxytocin are released from the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and thalamus, where it is carried to each individual mammary gland and milk duct, via the blood stream. Prolactin stimulates each milk producing cell, causing it to synthesize milk from body fluids, and secrete it into the alveoli sac. Specialized skin cells, (called myoepithelial cells), in the walls of the milk ducts are stimulated by oxytocin. When stimulated by oxytocin, myoepithelial cells contract causing the milk to move from the alveoli sacs, through the interconnecting milk ducts, to the milk sinuses behind the nipple where it can be suckled. Note: During lactation, the nipple and areola may become noticeably larger in size and darker in color. The breast may also become noticeably larger and fuller in appearance.

First Stage of Induced Lactation: The first noticeable sign of induced lactation is the secretion of clear fluids from the nipple. The clear fluids are mostly water and sugars, but may also contain a small amount of salt. After beginning breast and nipple stimulation with a combination massage, suckling, and/or breast pumping, clear fluids may appear as early as the second day, and usually no later than the end of the second week. During the clear fluid stage, the milk producing cells are maturing from their dormant state into fully developed milk producing glands, but have not yet begun to synthesize milk. There is no set duration for the clear fluid stage. For a woman who is relactating, after having recently breast fed, this stage may be hardly noticeable; however, for a woman who has never lactated or breast fed, this stage may last several weeks.

During this period the pituitary gland, and to a lesser extent the thalamus and hypothalamus, are just beginning to respond to increased demands for higher levels of the essential milk producing hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin and oxytocin levels rarely increase at equal rates, and it is not uncommon to experience the milk let-down reflex well before actual milk appears. Milk let-down occurs when the milk ducts are stimulated by elevated levels of oxytocin, causing the milk to move toward the nipple. This phenomena may be identified by a temporary tingling, or mild stinging, in the breasts as the milk begins to move through the milk ducts. Because both the milk ducts and the uterus are primarily made up of myoepithelial cells, which contract when stimulated by oxytocin, a woman may also experience a phenomena know as uterine flutter, (a pulsation of rapid contractions within the uterus), during the milk let-down reflex. When a woman experiences the milk let down reflex and/or uterine flutter, it is a good sign that oxytocin secretion is increasing as it should.

As fatty tissues within the breasts increase the amount of fluids being stored, some swelling and soreness may occur. The use of warm compresses while pumping, and breast massage while in a warm shower may relieve some of the soreness, as well as help stimulate dormant milk glands into mature milk producing glands. The secretion of clear fluids, combined with a noticeable milk let-down reflex, is usually a clear sign that oxytocin secretion has risen to adequate levels, but the secretion of prolactin is still below the level necessary to synthesize clear body fluids into milk. The second level of induced lactation is signaled when prolactin secretion rises to levels necessary to produce breast milk.

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Link to the article : http://www.stargatelibraries.com/BreastMakesMilk001.html

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