Is your milk enough for the baby?

A MOTHER'S MILK is capable of satisfying her baby's nutritional requirements. Even if she is undernourished, milk making centres (mammary alveoli) end up using previously stored nutrients in the mother’s body to kickstart lactation.

If your child is passing urine eight to ten times a day and stools five to eight times (or more) a day during the first two months and fewer times in the later months and is gaining weight according to the ‘weight for age’ standards set by the World Health Organization, then rest assured that your milk is sufficient for your baby.

Your milk will satiate if

1. You have the intention and support to nurse :

Lactation is governed by the secretion of two hormones—prolactin (milk making) and oxytocin (milk ejecting). As soon as the placenta exits the body and every time your baby drains a breast, the brain directs the pituitary gland to release prolactin that causes the alveoli to make more milk.

The milk made gets let down into ducts and reaches just behind the nipple with the help of another hormone oxytocin, secreted by the pituitary gland every time your baby's mouth touches your areola/nipple.

In the first few weeks post delivery (longer in some mothers), the let down reflex is so strong that a mother may experience several let downs even when she hears the baby cry or even holds him. A mother's need to love or nurse her baby is, therefore, picked up by the brain as a signal to eject milk even if it is not the time for a feed. Conversely, the more anxious and stressed you are, the more hindrance it causes to milk ejection.

2. You experience let downs and engorgement

The more frequent you let your baby suckle, sooner is the demand and supply cycle established. With this, the hardening or engorgement of the breasts will end. Let downs are also an indication of a mother’s and her body’s readiness to nurse.

(Some mothers rarely experience or notice let downs but go on to nurse successfully.)

3. You make sure the baby nurses

a) In the right position: lack of a proper position affects a baby's latch (hold) over the areola. This can lead to painful nursing and inefficient draining of the breast. This combined effect signals the brain to minimise milk production, gradually stalling it.

b) At regular intervals: this signals to the brain the need to replenish milk. The more your baby drains, the more milk your breasts make.

c) For enough time at each breast: Wait for the baby to let go of the areola. Check if your breast feels considerably softer, then shift the baby to the other breast.

Next issue: Frequent nursing