What Are the Various Stages in Lactation?
What is lactation? Lactation results when the mammary glands in the breasts of a mother provide milk for her infant.
'A mammary gland is an exocrine gland in humans and other mammals that produces milk to feed young offspring. Mammals get their name from the Latin word mamma, "breast." ' - wikipedia.org
The first stage of lactation is called Mammogenesis, which occurs when the breasts are formed, right from birth, through to puberty, and then, the process is completed during pregnancy.
This stage of lactation begins in a woman when she is still in her mother’s womb as a tiny embryo. At 12 weeks gestation, the breasts have grown nipples, areolae, alveoli (milk-producing cells), and mammary buds. Sex hormones will then further develop the breasts until she is born.
Estrogen and pituitary growth factors during puberty will prompt the breasts to grow. More and more breast tissue is stored with every monthly ovulation cycle until age 35.
A woman’s breasts are only prepared to produce milk once she has become pregnant; this is when the final changes in the breasts transpire to enable her to provide milk. The hormones accountable for these changes during pregnancy include Prolactin, Placental lactogen, Estrogen, Progesterone, and the Adrenocorticotropic hormone.
Read more about hormones responsible for lactation.
So What Changes Occur During Pregnancy?
A network of milk ducts spread and multiply within the breast. The areolae and Montgomery's tubercles become larger. The nipples become more extended.
Stage 2 and 3 Lactogenesis
Each breast contains about 20 lobes of glandular tissue (they look like miniature trees). The “leaves" of these trees are made up of alveoli, the milk-producing cells. The milk moves from the alveoli to the ductules, into the ducts, and eventually out the nipple through duct openings.
The breast also carries many nerve vessels and lymph vessels.
The second stage of lactation is called Lactogenesis: (making of milk) (stages 1 and 2). This is when a mother starts to produce milk adequately. Stage 1 is between mid-pregnancy and two days postpartum (after birth). Stage 2 is between day three and day eight postpartum.
Hormones control lactogenesis stages 1 and 2.
In stage 1, the mother's breasts may feel enlarged because of the alveoli that have begun to create colostrum.
In stage 2, the alveoli cells become restricted and tightly spaced. This improves the production of lactose, glucose, and milk lipids and lessens the production of protein, sodium, chloride, nitrogen, and magnesium.
During this stage, the breasts may feel warm and engorged if they are not emptied frequently enough. If the mother does not breastfeed, her breasts will stop producing mature milk and start providing colostrum again. Eventually, they will stop producing milk altogether. The breasts will begin to produce colostrum after three days of no milk extraction.
Lactogenesis stage 3: Also called galactopoiesis. This is the creation and sustaining stage of mature milk from day nine postpartum until the mother and baby decide to wean.
Lactogenesis stage 3 is controlled by the autocrine system, but hormones still play a part.
The more milk expelled from the breasts, the more milk will be produced. Milk production relies on the supply and demand system. Also, each breast works alone; if the mother breastfeeds more from one breast, that breast will produce more milk than the other, which is why a mom can breastfeed from just one breast.
Why Does The Breast Produce Less When It Is Full?
Prolactin cannot bind to the receptors that trigger the release of more prolactin. A whey protein in the milk called (FIL) feedback inhibitor of lactation hinders milk production when the alveoli are full. Once the alveoli are empty, there will be less FIL; therefore, more milk can be created.
Involution: This is when the breasts cease to produce milk after weaning.