We strive to empower healthcare professionals and mothers through knowledge - to continue on the path of everyday amazing mother’s milk. On this page you will find our latest education materials for download.
The Amazing Science of Mother’s Milk ebook
Breastfeeding is special, beautiful and convenient – just like our free ebook. This interactive, digital guide will take mums through each key stage of their milk-production journey.
What is "normal" when it comes to breastfeeding?
Through her work, Dr Jacqueline Kent, an expert in the field of lactation at the University of Western Australia, has succeeded in redefining the boundaries for ‘normal’ breastfeeding. There is a wide range of ‘normal’ when it comes to exclusive breastfeeding with respect to how long infants feed, how long each breastfeeding session takes, and how much milk the infant takes in each breastfeeding session. As every adult is unique, so is every infant. Since infants grow from 1 to 3 months, they take fewer, faster, larger breastfeeds, but interestingly, the amount they take for a whole day stays consistent up to 6 months. One of the key outcomes of this research is the impact on the mother; measuring breastfeeding patterns helps reassure parents that their breastfeeding behaviour is normal, and can maintain or improve the confidence of breastfeeding mothers.
What makes breast milk so amazing?
Breast milk is a unique and fascinating living fluid. The breast is the organ producing breast milk and it does so with the right nutrients in the right amount to match the needs of the infant. Breast milk also contains stem cells and immune factors and even changes in flavour according to what mum eats! Human milk is specifically designed for human infants. For instance, human milk has around 4% fat, while milk of seals and whales has around 50% fat to cater for the species-specific needs.
The brain is the fattest organ of the body! The infant brain almost doubles in mass in the first 6 months of life making the unique components of breast milk, especially the fats, so important for optimal brain development! There are literally thousands of different ingredients in breast milk, the vast majority of which cannot be replicated artificially. Scientists are continually discovering new components, making this an exciting research journey that Medela is proud to be a part of.
Initiating milk production
All mothers experience the same lactation processes to reach an adequate milk production, whether delivering at term or prematurely. This milk production journey can be described as being a continuum of four stages:
- Develop – developing the breast tissue
- Initiate – initiating milk production
- Build – building milk production
- Maintain – maintaining milk production.
As the stages are clearly interrelated, it is important to get things right from the start as this will have a substantial impact on long-term milk production success.
Optimising milk removal
Reaching an adequate milk production requires mothers to successfully develop, initiate, build and maintain their lactation. Optimising milk removal when using a pump is of critical importance if the mother is pump-dependent.
After initiation when milk has 'come in', if a breast pump is being used in order to support the build and maintain stages of lactation, it is truly advantageous to use 2-Phase Expression technology and double pumping. The infographic explains the reasons behind this and provides tips and tricks to help mums accomplish a comfortable and efficient pumping session.
Breast shield fitting
A well-fitted breast shield is not only important for comfort, but helps with pumping efficiency too. Breast shields that are too large or too small can reduce the volume of milk removed and cause discomfort. That’s why measuring the nipple diameter helps choose the correctly-sized breast shield before starting to pump. It is important to check nipple movement in the breast shield during pumping and to re-assess fit over time, since breast and nipple sizes can change over the duration of the pumping journey.
Why your choice of breast shield is key to successful pumping
Breasts and nipples come in all shapes and sizes and can change throughout the breastfeeding journey. The breast shield consists of 2 parts – the tunnel, which determines breast shield size, and the flange, which follows the shape of the breast. During both breastfeeding and pumping, the milk ducts expand and the nipple increases temporarily in size. This means a breast shield must always be slightly bigger than the nipple. Being comfortable is also really important during pumping. Factors influencing comfort can include breast shield size, nipple movement during pumping, breast pump vacuum strength and body positioning. Improving comfort helps optimise pumping.
Is donor human milk equivalent to own mother's milk?
When own mother’s milk (OMM) is not available, pasteurised donor human milk (DHM) has become the standard of care. While OMM and DHM are often collectively called “human milk”, there are significant differences not only in bioactivity, but in health outcomes, the maturity of the mammary gland (preterm milk vs term milk), stages of lactation (colostrum, transitional or mature milk) and provision costs.
Obtaining OMM should always be the first choice over acquiring DHM. Although DHM is a valuable resource for compromised infants as it is superior to formula, it cannot be considered equivalent to OMM. All efforts to help mothers of preterm and compromised infants to initiate, build and maintain their own milk supply effectively should be prioritised.
Breastfeeding support, from hospital to home
Every breastfeeding mum has a unique experience. Some mums find breastfeeding easy and uncomplicated, while others may find it more challenging. No matter what the experience, all mums breastfeed better with the support of family, friends, and often with the help of a good breast pump.
Different mums have different needs, depending on the stage of their lactation journey that they are at. While manual breast pumps are great for mums who spend most of their days and nights with their infants, hospital-grade double electric breast pumps are the better choice for mums who are frequently separated from the infants because of work or health problems.
The value of human milk in the NICU
The value of mothers producing adequate volumes of milk lies in the fact that human milk reduces the incidence, severity and risk of debilitating morbidities for hospitalised and preterm infants. Importantly, it does so in a dose-response manner – more milk, more benefit – with an especially potent impact in the first months of life.
Every drop of human milk counts for fragile preterm infants. It contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory factors that compensate for many aspects of the infant’s immature immune system through varied and synergistic mechanisms. These mechanisms include specific human milk components that are not present in the milk of other mammals. Together, the protective and nutritious components of own mother’s milk result in a reduced incidence and severity of prematurity-related morbidities and also rehospitalisation after NICU discharge.
The health and economic benefits of human milk for the preterm infant
Human milk consists of thousands of different components that protect and promote the optimal development of the infant. Preterm infants fed human milk have significantly better health outcomes than formula-fed infants. These outcomes include a reduction in the risk of morbidities such as necrotising enterocolitis, sepsis, sudden infant death syndrome, otitis media, leukaemia and obesity. Since human milk significantly lowers the rate of some of the most serious complications, it improves overall outcomes in the short and long term. This results in health and economic advantages for the infants and their families in terms of an improved quality of life, lower cost of care for the hospital and the healthcare system, as well as a higher productivity for the society as a whole.
Improving the use of human milk in the NICU
This scorecard guides quality improvement initiatives by providing evidence based indicators to allow the self-assessment of human milk and lactation care practices in the NICU.
Healthcare professionals can quickly evaluate their current policies and practices. By identifying potential gaps and undertaking quality improvement initiatives clinicians will be better able to provide the highest standard of lactation care and feeding for the most vulnerable population.
For more information speak to a Medela education representative, your partner for lactation care and human milk.
Feeding development solutions for neonatal intensive care
Medela understands feeding development as a continuum and therefore offers a feeding development portfolio that aims to provide milk to hospitalised infants – not only in a way that is as close to breastfeeding as possible, but also in a manner that supports each infant’s feeding ability and maturation. Medela helps NICU professionals find the optimal solution for each situation while feeding human milk to preterms. This overview of Medela’s NICU feeding solutions is an entry point to more detailed materials and initiatives dedicated to human milk and to breastfeeding preterm infants.
Human milk safety and infection control in the NICU
Human milk has potent anti-infective properties that help prevent the growth of microbes. However, due to the unique composition of human milk, a complex set of issues arises that places it at risk of contamination when it is collected, stored and handled in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Although the benefits of human milk far outweigh its risks as a source of infection, it is essential that the human milk pathway is optimised to ensure safety and infection control. Medela strives to provide knowledge and products that help to improve the human milk pathway in the NICU. We support NICU professionals with evidence-based solutions for the safe and hygienic handling of human milk.
Logistic solutions for human milk in the NICU
The NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) aims to provide preterm infants with a high dose of their own mother’s milk. To preserve the quantity and quality of the human milk, the NICU must optimise the entire pathway. When an infant is not feeding at the breast, the principal goal should be to help them receive the benefits of human milk. Medela has taken into consideration the potential risks and logistical challenges that NICUs face and gives NICU professional caregivers an overview of evidence-based logistical procedures for handling human milk in the NICU, and of how Medela’s solutions can support and help to standardise this human milk pathway.
Anatomy of the lactating breast
When performing ultrasound scans on the lactating breast, Dr Donna Geddes from The University of Western Australia began to question the anatomical diagrams that appeared in textbooks. The research performed at The University of Western Australia led to some groundbreaking discoveries that overturned most of the prior understanding of the anatomy of the lactating breast.
Research is in our DNA
Medela is a research-based company that invests in basic and exploratory research with global key opinion leaders. This provides a scientific basis for product innovation and clinical practice. Through these activities, Medela brings research to life.
We foster long-lasting relationships with universities, hospitals and research institutions around the world. These partnerships are a model for how industry and academia can work together. The outcomes of this exploratory research generate knowledge that often challenges fundamental principles.
Medela’s commitment to research, both product and non-product related, is more than a simple claim. As a truly research-based company, Medela will continue its research journey into the future.