Initiating Milk Supply: Infographic

Irene Murphy Zoppi, RN, MSN, IBCLC / May 2017

Nature has provided female mammals the ability to provide nutrition to their young after giving birth. This amazing natural marvel occurs due to a sequence of physiologic events, and culminates with sufficient quantities of species-specific nutrition for infant survival, growth, and development.

The process of lactation begins during gestation and is referred to as Secretory Differentiation.  The hormonal influences that maintain pregnancy play a role in producing biochemical and physical changes within the breast in preparation for lactation. Breast size increases along with an increase in milk-making cells (or lactocytes) and ductal structures within the breast resulting in an increase in milk production capability.

After birth, a change in important hormones stimulates the lactocytes to initiate copious milk production. This process, known as Secretory Activation or ‘milk coming in’ is enhanced with early initiation and subsequently frequent infant breastfeeding.

In the absence of a healthy, breastfeeding infant, breast stimulation with research-based initiation technology should be employed to support long-term milk supply.

The following infographic illustrates the steps in this natural process.

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About the Author

Irene joined Medela in 1999 as a clinician for the Breastfeeding Division. She currently serves as a Clinical Education Specialist focusing on Advocacy Outreach. In this role, she acts as a vital resource for groups assisting breastfeeding mothers and infants. She has been frequently interviewed on radio and online regarding breastfeeding issues for mothers and clinicians.

Irene spent many years caring for new families in antenatal, labor and delivery, postpartum and NICU settings and was involved in direct patient care and family-based education. Irene has extensive experience teaching in a variety of nursing education programs.  She produced a video presentation on nursing students’ involvement in Community Health Nursing for the National League of Nursing.