So, when does a woman’s body begin producing milk for her baby?
The correct answer is: B, “16 weeks gestation.”
This is around the time when the body begins producing colostrum. And yes, colostrum
is milk! This is what gives women who deliver babies prematurely the ability to still make
milk. And if a baby is born early, breastmilk is even more important, as it is tailor-made
for them. It contains more protein, fat, free amino acids, and sodium compared to the
breastmilk of full-term infants. Premature babies are better able to digest breastmilk
compared to formula. They can better absorb nutrients and it helps their digestive
systems mature, and their guts are less susceptible to potentially dangerous particles
passing thought intestine into their blood stream. Preterm babies who are fed breastmilk
on average are discharged from the hospital earlier. They also suffer less from medical
complications such as infection and necrotizing enterocolitis, when compared to their
formula fed counterparts. Because of this, many hospitals offer donor breastmilk for
preemie babies if the mother is not able to provide breastmilk.
Breasts are not considered fully mature until a woman has lactated. Some women will
leak colostrum during their pregnancy and others won’t. Whether a mother leaks during
pregnancy or not has no bearing on her ability to produce milk for her baby. During
pregnancy the placenta produces progesterone. Progesterone suppresses milk
production and prevents the body from freely releasing milk. After the baby is born, and
the placenta is expelled, there is a drastic drop in progesterone, giving the mother’s
body the ability to release milk freely with signs from her baby.
If you are having difficulty with milk production after birth seek professional help! Visit
Soslactation.com, or work with another local IBCLC to make sure you have all the
information and support you need to reach your breastfeeding goals. Happy breastfeeding!