It is widely believed that some women, especially those with small breasts, are unable to produce milk when they give birth. That’s not true.
All mothers do produce milk, according to specialists. “The milk production is triggered when the infant begins to suckle,” says Dr Roger Sodjinou, Chief of Nutrition at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Cameroon. He stressed that exclusive breastfeeding is strongly recommended for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by mixed feeding (breastfeeding and introduction of other complementary foods) until at least 2 years of age.
According to him, the suckling stimulates the anterior pituitary gland of the brain to produce prolactin, which in turn acts on the alveoli to produce milk. This mechanism is sometimes referred to as the milk secretion reflex. Research shows that immediately after childbirth, the mother produces colostrum (a yellowish liquid substance that is secreted by the breasts immediately after the baby is born) in each breast. The milk rises in the following days and the amount of milk produced by the mother depends mainly on the needs of her child.
The more the baby suckles, the more milk the mother produces. Thus, breast milk production is determined by the degree of breastfeeding of the baby, the frequency of breastfeeding and the quantity of milk the baby ingests with each feeding. “Milk production corresponds to the law of supply and demand. The more the baby asks for it, the more the mother will produce it,” says Dr. Sodjinou.
The World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated from August 1 to 7, is an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of this so natural and beneficial practice, both for the baby and the mother, and put an end to the pre-conceived ideas related to it.