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Friday, 20 September 2019 Posted under Breast Feeding

The Hormonal Influencers in Breastfeeding and Lactation

The Hormonal Influencers in Breastfeeding and Lactation

Hormones play a huge role in the internal functioning of the human body. Therefore in terms of birth and breastfeeding, it is no different. The initiation of lactation and continuance of breastfeeding is controlled by a delicate interplay of hormones. If there is any delay or disturbance in this interplay then it is sure to effect lactation. Read on to find out more about the different hormones involved in this process and the roles that they play.

Progesterone is a vital hormone in the maintenance of pregnancy. During pregnancy the levels of this hormone goes up significantly and then falls drastically within 4 days postpartum. This rapid decline of progesterone in the presence of prolactin triggers the process of lactogenesis.

Estrogen, like progesterone remains high during pregnancy as well. This hormone stimulates the milk duct system to grow and differentiate.

Prolactin is a vital hormone in terms of initiating lactation as well as continuing breastfeeding. Prolactin is formed in the mother's anterior pituitary gland when the nipples and areola are stimulated by the suckling. This also helps to keep the levels of estrogen low during breastfeeding which prevents ovulation.

Oxytocin is popularly known as the 'hormone of love'. This is because this is the hormone which is released at vital 'bonding' moments which makes us experience the 'feeling of love'. It is released during orgasms, while in skin to skin contact and also while breastfeeding. Therefore breastfeeding is said to help mothers bond better with their babies. This hormones helps the uterus to contract. It also helps the myoepithelial cells surrounding the alveoli to contract which in turn causes the milk ejection reflex. Oxytocin also plays a major role in terms of continuance of breastfeeding. Oxytocin levels rise and fall when stimulated and when stopping stimulation. 

Cortisol is one of the main glucocorticoids in the mother's body. Glucocorticoids are secreted by the adrenal glands in order to regulate water transport across cell membranes during lactation.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) promotes mammary growth and lactation. Generally mothers are characterized with a higher level of TSH 3rd to 5th days postpartum.

Prolactin - Inhibiting Factor (PIF) stimulates dopamine release and in turn inhibits prolactin secretions. Nipple stimulation along with the removal of milk from the breasts suppresses PIF and dopamine, causes the prolactin to rise and the breasts to produce milk.