What Is Lactation

One of the changes that occur in a female during pregnancy is an enhancement of breast tissue and the maturing of the mammary glands. This occurs due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Lactation is a period of time when a woman is producing breast milk in her mammary glands. Increases in the level of the hormone prolactin in a female stimulates her mammary glands to produce milk. The suckling of an infant helps signal her pituitary gland to release more prolactin into her blood and is required for continued lactation.

Breast milk is not a single substance, as it changes in composition not only with time after birth but also during a single feeding. In the first few days after birth, mothers produce a very sophisticated form of breast milk called colostrum. Over the next 2 weeks or so of lactation, breast milk slowly loses many of the characteristics of colostrum and gains those of mature breast milk.

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