Many people believe that parenthood begins the day their infant is born. However, the journey of parenting begins nine months before an infant even arrives. It is at that time that parents’ lives begin to change. The focus of survival is no longer about them but rather the new life they are bringing into the world. The long list of questions and the never-ending learning experience begins at that moment. However, arguably the most important question on the list is what the infant will be fed. Breastfeeding, for at least six months is the best feeding method for infants.
The term “breastfeeding” may lead to erroneous thoughts, such as an easy way to feed an infant. However, breastfeeding is not that simple; there are many problems that can arise, and it is a challenging task to master. Not only does a parent need to make the choice to breastfeed, but also they need to seek help preparing for the baby to arrive and for the initial trip home after the baby is born, providing it was not a home birth. There is also a list of supplies the parents may need to gather. The preparation isn’t just for the mother; it is for the entire family. After the birth, there are different options for rooming the baby in or out. The physical positions for breastfeeding vary greatly depending on certain circumstances. There is also a relationship that needs to be created between the mother and infant, in order for the feedings to be successful.
With the understanding that breastfeeding isn’t a simple task, it seems logical to walk through the process of breastfeeding, and how to approach each step appropriately. Before deciding whether breastfeeding is the right choice, understanding the anatomy of the breast and how breastfeeding actually works is ideal.
A woman’s breast is externally composed of a nipple, areola, and Montgomery’s tubercles. Internally it consists of seven to ten lobes, breaking down into alveoli, milk ducts, and milk reservoirs. The nipple also has five to ten openings on it, through which the breastmilk escapes (Bolding et al, 2013, p. 401). The hormones that are released when one becomes impregnated induce milk production within the breasts. However, the suckling from infants is what keeps the milk supply strong throughout the breastfeeding period.
When an infant initially latches onto the breast, there is a stimulation of the nerves in the nipple. This stimulation sends messages to the pituitary gland in the brain. Prolactin is then released within the bloodstream, where it reaches the milk-producing cells. Once the milk-producing cells receive prolactin, the foremilk is excreted through the nipple openings. As the baby continues suckling, the sensitive nerve endings within the nipple are stimulated. Now, instead of prolactin being released, oxytocin is released. This release triggers the cells that surround the milk-producing cells and ducts to contract, which in turn promotes letdown (Messenger, 1982, pp. 22-24)....