By Carolyn Hecken
We all know how incredible a woman’s body is, especially during pregnancy and postpartum, but did you know that…
1. Your breasts emit a scent almost identical to your amniotic fluid. The Montgomery glands, those little raised bumps on the darker pigmented area of the breast (areola) around your nipples, are thought to secrete an oil-like substance that smells much like amniotic fluid. This familiar scent – along with the stark contrast in color between your areola and the rest of the breast – help your baby locate the center of your breast much like a target.
You may notice that when your baby is on your chest immediately after birth, that she instinctively brings her hands to her nose and mouth and uses her other inborn reflexes to inch her way to your breast. The familiar scent of amniotic fluid still present on her hands helps her to navigate her way to the breast. It has also been noted, that the more Montgomery glands a mother has, the more easily the baby is able to hone in on the scent and makes its way to the breast.
2. A never-before noticed extra nipple or extra breast tissue may crop up after you’ve given birth. Anywhere between 1-6% of women may experience extra glandular tissue, with or without a nipple visible, somewhere along the mammary ridge or “milk line” which form two parallel lines of glandular tissue extending from the armpit to the lower groin in the early development of an embryo. For many men and women, the tissue along the milk line “regresses” except where breasts later develop. Sometimes this process is incomplete, meaning an extra nipple or tissue remains. This is not all that too terribly uncommon. Find out what this can mean for breastfeeding by visiting www.kellymom.com.
3. You can help to program an adequate milk supply by breastfeeding early and often. Breastfeeding your baby frequently (every 1.5 to 3 hours within a 24-hour period with one longer break of 4 to 5 hours) in the days and weeks after birth allows your body to establish a milk supply ideal for nourishing your baby. While there can be anatomical or medical circumstances that hinder the production of a sufficient milk supply, they are generally not particularly common.
The theory behind this process is called the “Prolactin Receptor Theory”. It touches upon the some of the same notions as those behind the critical period in language development. In order for a child to acquire human language, s/he must have consistent and consequent exposure to language via face-to-face interaction during a certain span of time of life in order to learn it natively. The more frequently a baby or child is exposed to a language, the greater advantage s/he has in learning that specific language.
At birth, the alveoli, or little grape-like clusters of glandular tissue in your breast, which are responsible for making milk, are already lined with a set number of prolactin receptors. It is theorized that frequent, even if only short, stimulation of the breast actually increases the number of prolactin receptor sites on each individual alveolus. The more prolactin receptors a woman has, the more prolactin she is able to utilize from the bloodstream and, consequently, the stronger a milk supply she is able to establish.
As milk is removed from the breast, the shape of prolactin receptors enables more prolactin to be taken from the bloodstream in order for more milk to be produced, i.e. milk production increases. When milk is not removed from the breast for a longer period of time, the walls of the alveoli expand due being full of milk and the shape of the prolactin receptors is altered, keeping the prolactin in the bloodstream from entering through the sites and thus slowing milk production.