As you have probably noticed among women there is a huge variation in breast size, shape, colour, nipple shape, size etc. Small women with big breasts and big women with small breasts, the good news is that the size of your breasts has no impact on their capacity to make milk. Women with very small breasts can make as much milk in 24 hours as women with large breasts, although a small breasted women can’t store as much milk at one time, therefore feeding may have to happen more frequently.
Whatever your size or shape, you will notice changes to your breasts during your pregnancy, your breasts will grow larger and the skin covering them will appear thinner and the veins will become more noticeable. The colour and the diameter of the areola may change, some women report to have tender or sore breasts which is simply the response of breast tissue to hormonal changes. Some women experience quite rapid and sudden breast growth and others experience a more gradual change.
Those women who have had surgery to the breast, for augmentation or reduction, may find this does interfere to some extent with milk production. This applies especially if the 4th intercostal nerve has been severed. Usually mums who have had surgery can still breastfeed, if not exclusively, but any women contemplating this sort of surgery would be well advised to discuss its effects on breastfeeding with a lactation consultant.
Often, as early as 16 weeks you may find you can express drops of colostrum from your nipple but it isn’t until after you have delivered your baby that you start to produce large amounts of milk.
At delivery the progesterone and oestrogen levels suddenly drop, causing the pituitary gland to release the milk making hormone, prolactin, especially while the mother is asleep. Prolactin release is vital for both beginning and maintaining breastfeeding.
The pituitary gland releases another hormone - oxytocin – also critical to breastfeeding this hormone works on milk glands within the breast, forcing the milk into the milk ducts which lead to the nipple and so to the baby. Oxytocin release can be affected by a number of things, including certain illnesses like diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome and by stress. This is why new mothers must take it easy and relax in order to learn how to breastfeed with the minimum of difficulty. In the modern world, this is sometimes difficult, new mothers are sometimes quite isolated or they feel pressure to be up and about as quickly as possible.
Remember that once breastfeeding is nicely established you can think about donating some of your milk to the breast milk bank to help those babies whose mothers are unable to provide them with milk.
Stasha 083 700 0409
Liz 076 524 0772
Or visit us at www.sabr.org.za