The Real Scoop on How Lactation Works

How it Works – Breastmilk Production

A little low down on the facts behind breastmilk, may help to demystify this mommy mystery.

Right after your baby is born, breast milk is controlled by hormones (endocrine), but after a couple of weeks, it is heavily controlled by Supply-Demand control (autocrine).

This all sounds so medical, and it is. Breastmilk production is a fairly complicated process and a graph of a post-partum woman’s hormones look like fireworks on July 4th. No wonder we feel like our brain is being blended in a food processor. 

Prolactin is the director of breast milk production for the first few weeks after baby arrives, but your body makes less and less of prolactin during those first weeks. Between 6 and 12 weeks, prolaction really drops off.

Moms who do not pump much those first few weeks, are surprised to find their milk supply falling off.  This is the time when moms say they couldn’t pump enough milk and ended up quitting.

After the prolactin falls off, then the Supply & Demand (autocrine) take over. Remember, this is Supply and Demand.  If you don’t pump enough for milk Demand, the Supply will dwindle. Its kinda like the stock market but breast milk is totally reality based.

So, new moms, pumping 6 to 8 times each day, early on will take advantage of the plentiful prolactin. Plus you are setting up a healthy stock market of breast milk  before the Supply-Demand system really kicks in gear. 

True, I’ve mixed a few metaphors here. But I hope this is a little bit easier than the heavy medical jargon that typically puts me to sleep before I finish the article.  

Next blog, we’ll get into the processes that control breast milk when your hormones level out. Yea, they do level out some, although I’m not sure if it happens before your baby gets out of adolescence.

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