Frequently Asked Questions on Breast Milk


What Regulates Breast Milk Supply?


The most important factor that determines the volume of milk production by the mother’s breasts is the magnitude of her baby’s demand for it. The mother’s breasts produce as much milk as her baby sucks. The more milk your baby takes, the more milk your breasts will make. If he begins to take feeds t shorter intervals, the breasts will form the required milk faster to keep pace with his requirements. This happens due to the fact that when the requirements. This happens due to the fact that when the breasts get emptied after feeding the baby, a physiological reflex is set up in your body. A hormone called prolactin gets released from the pituitary gland in your brain, which stimulates milk glands in the breasts to produce milk.


What Do I Do for a Regular Milk Supply?


Rest and relaxation are important. You produce less milk if you are tired and tense. Eat a well-balanced diet with a helping more than your usual meals. You should take green leafy vegetables regularly and plenty of fluids. Milk will provide both of you with fluids, proteins, calcium and calories. Considering the local conditions in India, you should only use iodised salt (i.e., salt which has been fortified with iodine) in order to prevent the development of iodine deficiency in the body and the resultant thyroid gland disorder Avoid tea, coffee and other caffeine drinks like Coke. Excessive smoking and intake of alcohol should also be avoided. The use of contraceptive pills reduces milk supply.


Should I Breastfeed When I am Ill


You should discontinue breast-feeding when you are suffering from a viral fever, cough, diarrhoea, a urinary tract infection, hepatitis or other common illnesses. Recent medical evidence suggests that a mother who is suffering from AIDS should better avoid breast-feeding her baby on account of the risk of transmission of HIV infection through breast milk. In case of any serious doubts, you may consult your doctor but do not stop breast-feeding on your own.


Can I Take Drugs?


While breast-feeding your baby, the use of drugs should be restricted as far as possible. Although most of the commonly used drugs may be safe, it is advisable for you to first consult your doctor. He will advise you a safer alternative drug, when medication becomes necessary. For example, the lactating mother should not take, on her own, ergot containing preparations (like cafergot) for a migraine headache. Safer alternative drugs are now available and are recommended for use while the mother is breast-feeding her baby. Only under very special circumstances, as when (i) the mother is receiving anti-cancer drugs, (ii) drugs for the treatment of thyrotoxicosis to curb thyroid gland over activity (iii) gold salts (for joint disorders) and (iv) lithium (for depression), should breast – feeding be discontinued to avoid potential harm to the baby.


What About when I have to go to work


In such a case you need to combine the breast and bottle-feeds. You can continue to breast-feed the baby while you are at home. The baby can be given your expressed milk when you are away at work. The expressed milk may, however, not be enough to meet all his needs while you are away and it may need to be supplemented with cow’s milk or infant powder milk.


Can I Store the Expressed Milk


It is best to use the expressed breast milk fresh. But if you need to store it, place it in the refrigerator immediately after collecting it, preferably in a plastic container. It can be refrigerated under proper hygienic conditions with uninterrupted electricity supply for up to 24 hours but it should not be allowed to get frozen.


Should Stored Breast Milk be Boiled Before Use?


Your own breast milk is sterile. It does not need boiling and should not be boiled so as to lose its natural anti-infective properties. Some medical authorities also advise against the use of microwave oven for heating in case it has any harmful effect. Warm the bottle containing breast milk gradually by placing it in a bowl of hot water before feeding it to your baby.