Breastmilk forms the first source of nutrition for a newborn. Nature prepares a woman’s body for breastfeeding from the time when she is herself an embryo. Breasts have the ability to become functional and start preparing to produce milk as the woman conceives, making her capable of feeding her own child.
If you ever wondered how your breast milk magically comes out of your body to satiate the hunger of your baby, it is an intricate biological mechanism, which you must know about—after all it is your own body that is doing the work.
Changes Observed In The Breasts
With the onset of pregnancy, moms can notice multiple visible changes in her body, the most evident being the changes in her breasts. Breasts including the nipples become tender and bigger in size and appear fuller and darker in color.
Moms might have observed small points in the areola region, the darkly pigmented skin around the nipples. These points called Montgomery glands tend to become more visible during pregnancy. The purpose of these glands is to secrete oil to prevent the nipples from drying and cracking when the baby suckles.
What happens On The Inside
Your breasts are a mesh of glands connected to milk ducts through channels. Though this mesh is formed even before a woman is born, they get triggered at the onset of puberty when the hormone estrogen takes over, causing the breasts to get enlarged.
This mass made of tissue, fats, and milk glands further experiences changes when the woman conceives and there is another episode of a surge in the pregnancy hormones.
Understanding Your Breasts
Ducts are the tubes that carry milk from the lobules, the milk producing glands to the nipples. Human beings have two major milk producing glands that are made of 10-20 small milk-producing tissues.
When the pituitary gland stimulates the secretion of the hormone prolactin, which causes each of these 10-20 tissues to be filled with milk. This milk, which is made of sugar, fat, and proteins is absorbed from the mother’s blood and then seeps out through the nipples.
The number and size of these ducts increases when the woman conceives. All this process completes by the second trimester, so even if the baby is born prematurely, the mother is ready to lactate and feed them.
Flow Of Breastmilk After Delivery
After the birth of your baby, the pregnancy hormones drop down and the production of prolactin hormone increases, which boosts the milk supply. This causes your breasts to enlarge—forcing you to buy new maternity bras of course. This happens within 48 to 96 hours of delivery.
As you will start feeding your baby, the swelling in the breasts gradually reduces—there will be no dearth in the milk supply though.
Experiencing Discharge When You Aren’t Pregnant
Discharge from the nipples even if you haven’t conceived could be an initial indication of an infection or a hormonal imbalance. However, in any case, it shouldn’t be ignored.
Note down the color, odor, and amount of discharge. If you observe a milky white discharge and aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding, it indicates the production of higher than normal amount of prolactin. The disorder is identified as galactorrhea.
There is a possibility of inflammation or infection if you often experience a sticky clear discharge from the nipples. It may be accompanied by little blood and a sensation of pain. Seek immediate medical attention—a complete dose of antibiotics recommended by the doctor is the requirement of the time.
If the blood is all you see as the discharge, it can even indicate a cyst or cancer—unless you experienced an injury on the breasts, which could be the reason then. The possibility of disorder in the functionality of the pituitary gland also exists. You could face the problems in one or both breasts, depending on the extent to which the infection has spread.
It might be surprising to know that an eye doctor could diagnose whether the root cause behind the symptoms lies in the pituitary gland—after which they would refer you to the specialist. Identify the symptoms and contact your doctor—don’t self-diagnose and treat the problem by yourself.