During your pregnancy and after giving birth you will have to deal with all kinds of hormones. Adrenaline and endorphins have been reviewed before, but in this blog we're going to talk about prolactin. A lesser known hormone for many people, but certainly not less important. Prolactin is responsible for the milk production after the birth of your baby.
What is prolactin?
By now you know that we are talking about a hormone. A hormone that everyone - woman and man - always has in small quantities in the body. In principle it has no function for men, but for women it is of great importance. The hormone is responsible for the production of milk.
Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland, a small organ in the brain. Normally, this is only a small amount, but when you are pregnant, prolactin levels rise significantly (NVKC). The milk ducts and milk glands will grow; your breasts are preparing themselves for breastfeeding. Your breasts are preparing for breastfeeding, which may be reflected in heaviness and tenderness, or even in the occasional oozing of milk. It won't be much, because your pituitary gland is still busy making progesterone and oestrogen. Once your little one is born, the amount of progesterone and estrogen drops so the pituitary gland can go full steam ahead to make prolactin (Pregnancy Portal). You go, hypo!
The milk release reflex is the mechanism of your breasts that pushes the milk out, so to speak. The milk release reflex is caused by the hormones oxytocin and prolactin (there he is again). Oxytocin causes the muscles around the milk glands to tighten, which forcefully pushes the milk through the milk ducts, and prolactin ensures the production of milk (Breast Milk Network). Many women experience the milk release reflex as a tingling or warmth in the breast. By breastfeeding, the amount of prolactin is kept at a high level. The more often you feed, the more milk is produced. The cells of the mammary glands contain prolactin receptors which recognize the hormone and can react to it. If these are not used (enough), they will eventually disappear. The more often you latch on to your little one, the more receptors there are, which means a higher milk production (Pregnancy Portal).
The more often you feed, the more milk
Feed your baby at least eight to twelve times a day during the first few days. This will help him learn how to drink properly and keep the breastfeeding at a good level. After a while, the breastfeeding will be well under way and you can try to feed your baby more regularly. Good to know: The production of prolactin is higher at night than during the day. So try to feed your little one at night now and again. This can be especially helpful if the production of breast milk is difficult to start up.
It is good to know that your breasts and your baby need to get used to each other in the beginning. Supply and demand need to be balanced. If your breasts feel less tense than during the week of the birth, this is a good sign. Supply and demand are getting more and more in balance. If your baby needs more feed, it is better to let go of the old feed. flasks a good option. In principle, you can just do that by hand because the amount of milk is not yet so large (The Midwife). If you are going to be pumping for a longer period of time, we recommend you get a breast pump to purchase. Well so easy!
The Midwife. (s.d.). Breast milk. Consulted from https://deverloskundige.nl/net-bevallen/subtekstpagina/262/moedermelk
Breast Milk Network. (s.d.). Reflux | Breast Milk Network. Consulted from https://moedermelknetwerk.nl/kolven-stap-voor-stap/toeschietreflex
NVKC. (s.d.). Find a test | NVKC. Consulted from https://www.nvkc.nl/zoek-een-test/?id=271
Pregnancy Portal. (2019, December 3). Prolactin. Consulted from https://www.zwangerenportaal.nl/zwanger/prolactin