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When the breast milk starts flowing

With all due respect to hormones, it's your baby who starts your breast milk flowing. And your baby who determines the amount of milk you produce. So to get breastfeeding started or to produce more breast milk, put your baby to your breast.

Your baby's sucking instinct – its need to lie against your breast – is very strong during the first few days, especially on the second and third day after birth, when they need to work hard to start up their food supply And you may not even recognise your own breasts, now that the milk is flowing They look completely different – and quite a bit bigger too! They're taut, tender and full of milk

As breastfeeding gets started
But your baby will soon fix that Your milk production adapts to your baby’s needs – it’s pretty ingenious If your baby sucks a lot, your milk increases If baby sucks a little less, the supply decreases It takes a few days to fine-tune the amount, but it will happen

The milk ejection reflex
When baby sucks on your breast, impulses are sent to your brain causing it to release two hormones vital to breastfeeding One of these hormones is prolactin, which helps produce the milk The more your baby sucks, the more prolactin is secreted and the more milk is produced – and vice versa The other hormone is oxytocin, which regulates the milk ejection reflex (the impulse that makes your milk flow)

The milk starts flowing after your baby has been sucking for a while You might feel a tingling, prickling sensation in your breast when it starts The milk may drip or spray out in jets Some women don’t really feel the milk ejection reflex, while others feel it as soon as they hear their baby crying

Stress can inhibit the milk ejection reflex

Milk ejection can become less efficient if you’re tense, nervous or stressed For this reason, you need peace, quiet and relaxing surroundings

Later on, as you get more confident and accustomed to breastfeeding, the milk will flow more easily For most women, breastfeeding eventually becomes a reflex, something you do without even thinking It becomes a practical yet cosy thing to do And with a little practice it won’t take long for you to get there too

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