Between the aftermath of labor and delivery, adjusting to life as a mother, and feeding another human being, it's safe to assume you're wondering what in the hell is going on. If you've decided and/or are able to breastfeed, some of your questions might be of the breast milk persuasion. So, where does breast milk come from? Sure, the answer is kind of in the question itself, but when you really dive into how breast milk is made, one thing is for certain: you guys, our boobs are rad AF.
Dr. Lauren Levine, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, says the milk is made from "specialized cells" in a woman's breast. Basically, the main components of breast milk are produced via the mammary glands. When you become pregnant, hormones signal to those glands, which then alert the alveoli (a cluster of sacs surrounded by muscles) that it's milk-making time. The intention is, according to New Health Guide, to lead the milk through the milk ducts and out the nipple to feed baby. The nerve endings also send out a signal it's time to let the milk flow. In order to make the milk itself, your pregnant body takes bits from blood (and sometimes water) and synthesizes them, creating the nutrient-rich formula your baby receives.
Of some of the important nutrients your baby gets from your breast milk, there's an abundance of protein, fats, vitamins your body creates. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) cites that breast milk is designed to be easily digested — turns out, your body knows how to care for your baby long before you might, which is quite fascinating and just another reason why the human body is amazing.
According to La Leche League International, "No two mothers produce identical milk." Even though breast milk can change throughout the course of the day, and may even be different on the first day compared to the the 10th day, your milk is specifically made for your baby. Katie Hinde, PhD and associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University, adds that because a mother's hormones "circulate" through the course of a day, it's only natural that the same would happen to her breast milk.
The American Pregnancy Association (APA) says there are a few stages of milk production: colostrum, which is the first milk your body makes and can appear during pregnancy; the transitional milk that can last two weeks after the colostrum subsides; foremilk, which is at the start of a feeding; and hindmilk, that happens after the "initial release." This is the milk that helps your baby gain weight.
Long before baby's born, your breasts work to create the perfect formula, based on your unique body and your unique baby. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not (or whether you're physically able to or not), one thing is for certain: your body is a pretty incredible thing.