The best and the most important form of nutrition for new-borns, infants and neonates is mother’s breast milk. This milk provides all the various bioactive substances required by the developing baby during the time of brain, immune system and gut development. This milk provides nourishment and protects the baby from various diseases and infections. In women, the hormones – prolactin and oxytocin play a very important role in the process of lactation.
The entire process of lactation can be divided into various stages, which are as follows:
- Mammogenesis: There is increase in size and weight of the breasts
- Lactogenesis: Alveolar cells get differentiated from secretory cells during the late pregnancy. Later, from day 2 to day 8 after delivery of the baby, breasts are full and warm, and the secretion of breast-milk begins.
- Galactopoiesis: From day 9 after the delivery upto the beginning of involution, secretion is maintained. Autocrine system control continues.
- Involution: On an average, on the the 40 day after last breastfeeding, the secretion of milk reduces due to the build-up of inhibiting peptides.
Hygiene and cleanliness for lactating mothers
Maintaining good hygiene and cleanliness is highly recommended for lactating mothers. In older times, breastfeeding mothers would refrain from cleaning their breasts with soap with the fear that their nipples may become dry. However, in recent times a regular bath and cleaning the breasts is advised by the doctors. After cleaning, take out a few drops of milk from the breast, apply on the nipples and let it air-dry. The breast-milk has anti-infective properties and will help to keep the nipples moist. Moreover, the Montgomery glands present on the areola secrete oil, which prevents bacteria from breeding. Hence, clean the breasts lightly to avoid disrupting the activity of these glands.
Care to be taken by lactating mothers:
- Keep your nipples clean and dry
- Nipple conditioning
- Clean your breasts after every feeding session
- Avoid pressure on your breasts
- Ensure proper breast support
After every feeding/ nursing session, apply few drops of breast milk on the nipples. This will help the nipples to stay moist, and heal the cuts or abrasions caused by feeding. You can use your hands or a pump to drain the extra milk from the breasts. Avoid using any creams or gels on the nipples. Also, wear fitted nursing bras to ensure proper breast support. The breast support proves beneficial for women as it helps to maintain the shape of the breast, keeping them firm.
Exercise for lactating mothers
A regular exercise regime is a must for every one. And, for lactating mothers, it is all the more important. Taking care of the baby, feeding and changing nappies may exhaust the mother. So, a small amount of exercise will keep the mother energised. However, working out in the gym or going for rigorous exercise sessions is difficult. Hence, a short walk daily can improve their cardiovascular fitness.