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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the structure of the lactating breast
  • Summarize the process of lactation
  • Explain how the composition of breast milk changes during the first days of lactation and in the course of a single feeding

Lactation is the process by which milk is synthesized and secreted from the mammary glands of the postpartum female breast in response to an infant sucking at the nipple. Breast milk provides ideal nutrition and passive immunity for the infant, encourages mild uterine contractions to return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size (i.e., involution), and induces a substantial metabolic increase in the mother, consuming the fat reserves stored during pregnancy.

Structure of the lactating breast

Mammary glands are modified sweat glands. The non-pregnant and non-lactating female breast is composed primarily of adipose and collagenous tissue, with mammary glands making up a very minor proportion of breast volume. The mammary gland is composed of milk-transporting lactiferous ducts, which expand and branch extensively during pregnancy in response to estrogen, growth hormone, cortisol, and prolactin. Moreover, in response to progesterone, clusters of breast alveoli bud from the ducts and expand outward toward the chest wall. Breast alveoli are balloon-like structures lined with milk-secreting cuboidal cells, or lactocytes, that are surrounded by a net of contractile myoepithelial cells. Milk is secreted from the lactocytes, fills the alveoli, and is squeezed into the ducts. Clusters of alveoli that drain to a common duct are called lobules; the lactating female has 12–20 lobules organized radially around the nipple. Milk drains from lactiferous ducts into lactiferous sinuses that meet at 4 to 18 perforations in the nipple, called nipple pores. The small bumps of the areola (the darkened skin around the nipple) are called Montgomery glands. They secrete oil to cleanse the nipple opening and prevent chapping and cracking of the nipple during breastfeeding.

The process of lactation

The pituitary hormone prolactin    is instrumental in the establishment and maintenance of breast milk supply. It also is important for the mobilization of maternal micronutrients for breast milk.

Near the fifth week of pregnancy, the level of circulating prolactin begins to increase, eventually rising to approximately 10–20 times the pre-pregnancy concentration. We noted earlier that, during pregnancy, prolactin and other hormones prepare the breasts anatomically for the secretion of milk. The level of prolactin plateaus in late pregnancy, at a level high enough to initiate milk production. However, estrogen, progesterone, and other placental hormones inhibit prolactin-mediated milk synthesis during pregnancy. It is not until the placenta is expelled that this inhibition is lifted and milk production commences.

After childbirth, the baseline prolactin level drops sharply, but it is restored for a 1-hour spike during each feeding to stimulate the production of milk for the next feeding. With each prolactin spike, estrogen and progesterone also increase slightly.

Questions & Answers

which component of mucus allows it to maintain local level of hydration
Loriann Reply
can the teeth be classify under bones?
Ojaga Reply
Bony prominents
guka
What is the largest muscle in the lower leg
Gwen Reply
what's a nervous system
Dante Reply
Is a the group of neurons and glial cells that work together to receive, integrate and responds appropriately to stimulus in the periphery, spinal cord and brain.
Hertzo
study about internal structure, outer structure and their functions
Navdeep Reply
circulatory system on blood pressure
Lakhu Reply
What is ELISA
POULAMI Reply
(enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance.
luke
tr
Mohamed
what's defense mechanism?
Saintina
psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.
Henry
difference between apocrine sweat glands and merocrine sweat glands
Binkheir Reply
I believe the apocrine sweat gland uses a sac under the hair follicle and the merocrine sweat gland releases directly on to the surface of the skin
Mark
normal blood volume in our body
pankaj Reply
5Litres
Albert
Normal blood volume in adults is 6 litres
Kedha's
4.7 to 5ltr.. normal for adult
Clangbhelle
what are the advantages of the concave shape of red blood cells?
Amy Reply
This structure is VERY flexible. It can allow these cells to get into the most tiny places in our bodies. a VERY good design! The advantage of red blood cells' biconcave shape is that the surface area is increased to allow more haemoglobin to be stored in the cell.
Saafi
They can stack so that they can move to capillaries
Nejat
action of gluteus medius and minimus
Green Reply
Lateral rotation of the hip joint
Hertzo
Briefly explain location of ecg on a patient
Prince Reply
it is a machine that gives a graphical representation of heart beat
Nani
Briefly explain location of ecg leads on a patient?
Prince
in ecg we use electrical leads over the chest ,ancle and wrist
Nani
what is the anatomical and function difference between paravertebral and prevertebral ganglia ?
Rada Reply
types of tissue in human
Preety Reply
charactetistic Of cartilaginous tissue
Preety
what is theRecurrent infection?
pankaj Reply
what do you mean about recurrent infection
pankaj
Recurrent or persistent infection is a manifestation of primary immuno deficiency
Kedha's
weakens the immune system, allowing infections and other health problems to occur more easily
Kedha's
lysis of RBC
Abdirizack

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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