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Anatomy of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can seem mysterious at first. What’s going on inside the breast? Where does the milk come from? Can the baby breathe okay? In fact, mothers and babies are naturally designed for breastfeeding. The picture below shows how you and your baby work together during breastfeeding.

 

Closeup of baby nursing at breast showing anatomy: lobule, duct, nipple, areola, and baby's tongue and nose.

Lobules are structures that produce and store milk.

Ducts are tubes between the lobules and the nipple.

The baby’s nose is flat, allowing easy breathing while breastfeeding.

The nipple has many small openings to spray milk.

The areola provides oils to clean the nipple. During feeding, as much of the areola as possible should be in the baby’s mouth. This helps the baby transfer milk. It is also more comfortable than if the baby sucks on the nipple alone.

The tongue helps the baby suckle. It should be placed beneath the nipple.

The Right Milk for the Right Time

As your baby grows, his needs change. And your body’s milk changes to suit those needs. You produce three kinds of milk for your baby:

  • Colostrum is the first milk. It is thick and yellowish. Colostrum provides all of the nutrients that your baby needs in the first days.

  • Transitional milk comes in 2 to 5 days after birth. It can look creamy, white, or yellow.

  • Mature milk begins in the second or third week after birth. It looks thinner or more watery. It can have a bluish tint. Levels of protein, fat, and antibodies in mature milk change as your baby’s needs change.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amsley-Camp, Kim, CNM, MS
Online Medical Reviewer: Gillman, Diana, MD
Last Review Date: 10/7/2011
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