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Exclusive Breastfeeding During the First Month

Numerous studies have shown that the primary reason WIC moms discontinue breastfeeding is low milk supply, and a major cause of low milk supply is unnecessary supplementation in the first few weeks postpartum. That’s why WIC is focusing on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first month postpartum.

The first few weeks of breastfeeding is often referred to as the “calibration period” of lactation. Jan Riordan, author of Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, says that “early breastfeeding has a critical period during which frequent nipple stimulation and milk removal are necessary for plentiful milk supply in later weeks.”

In the first few weeks after birth, receptors for prolactin, the milk making hormone, multiply in the mother’s breast. According to the The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk, by Diana West and Lisa Marasco, “the development of prolactin receptors in the breast is believed to be related to the frequency of early sucking stimulation and milk removal: the more often a baby breastfeeds in the first days and weeks after birth, the more receptors are made.” At the same time, “the milk-making process changes from being largely hormone driven (endocrine) to more locally controlled in the breast (autocrine), responding to baby’s demand by adjusting the rate of milk production up or down according to how much and how often milk is taken out.”

Early frequent suckling stimulation and milk removal and avoidance of any formula in the first few weeks helps a mother set her milk supply at a high volume. Encouraging and helping a mom to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first month will allow her to establish a good milk supply, making it easier for her to return to work and maintain a good breast milk supply.

Texas WIC offers a choice of food packages to mothers and their infants, based on whether a mother decides to breastfeed or give formula to her baby. The Exclusively Breastfeeding food package provides more food compared to the formula package. Mothers will also receive breastfeeding support and a breast pump, if needed. To learn more, read about the WIC Food Packages for Mothers and Infants.

References:

Riordan, Jan. 2005. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation.3rd ed. Toronto: Jones & Bartlett.

West, D. and L. Marasco. 2008. The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk.
New York. McGraw-Hill.

Internet Resources:

La Leche League International

Low Milk Supply, Information and Support for Breastfeeding Mothers

breastfeeding mother and baby