If you spend as much time as I do thinking about boobs, you’re bound to come up with some favorite things about them. Without further ado, here are some of mine.
The term “galactopoiesis.”
“Galacto-” = New Latin, from Ancient Greek stem γάλακτ- (gálakt-) of γάλα (gála, “milk, milky sap, the Milky Way”)
“-poiesis” = From Ancient Greek ποίησις (poíēsis), from ποιέω (poiéō, “to make”)
Literally: To make milk. After you’ve started to grow the mammary tissue that you’ll use after giving birth (mammogenesis), and then you’ve made colostrum (lactogenesis stage 1) and starts to make mature milk (lactogenesis stage 2), milk-making starts to be mainly demand-driven, with most of the milk production driven by how much milk is removed from the breast.
Bonus trivia: When you stop producing milk, what happens is called “involution.”
(Thanks for the word nerdery, Wiktionary.)
If you look at the picture on the right, of my friendly teaching boob, you’ll notice some French knots around the areola. If you look on your own boob, you’ll notice similar (not-French-knot-unless-you-are-a-doll) bumps. These are the Montgomery glands, which are sebaceous (oil) glands. The secretions from these glands not only help lubricate the nipple, but—this is the awesome part—it smells like amniotic fluid, providing a scented “target” for a newborn baby.
The enteromammary pathway.
Simply put, your baby’s mouth in contact with your breast allows your baby to communicate to your immune system and say, “Hey, make some immunoglobulins to help keep me from getting sick!” Your immune system also comes into contact with the germs that your baby is exposed to whenever you kiss, touch, nuzzle, or sniff your baby.
A breastfed baby will consume about the same amount of milk at month one and month six.
It’s true! Unlike a baby who drinks formula exclusively, the volume of breastmilk a baby needs stays pretty stable for the first six months. The milk changes, not the volume. Since formula doesn’t change as a baby ages, more is needed to provide the nutrients a baby needs. (I feel like I link to this all the time, but here you go.)
If you put two babies their mother’s chest, her breasts will change temperature independently of each other, according to each baby’s needs.
It’s pretty well documented that single babies who are held skin-to-skin reap all sorts of benefits. But what if you have two babies at the same time? As it turns out, each breast seems to be in tune with each individual baby, and will warm or cool as needed.
There is always something new to learn.
I could probably write a post like this every week or so; there is so much to learn. We develop a deeper understanding of the science behind lactation, which better informs practice and necessitates rethinking some things and inventing some new ways to talk, teach, and demonstrate about breastfeeding. And for someone who is thrilled to not only learn new things, but learn better ways to do think and act based on those new things, this is sort of a dream.