The process of producing breast milk, known as lactation, is a amazing and beautiful experience in many women’s lives, and one that is often divided into two different categories: maternal and non-maternal. While both of these processes involve many of the same symptoms and side effects (such as physical changes to the breast, the importance of proper milk removal to ensure adequate supply and the prevention of common nursing maladies, such as engorgement and mastitis, and leakage), the journey of achieving lactation is quite different.
During maternal lactation, which begins early on in pregnancy, the beautiful female anatomy naturally takes over the process of preparing milk for new life by producing and releasing the key lactation hormones estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and prolactin. Because nature simply takes her sweet course, a woman will need to do little more than allow her body to undertake its milk-making task and rest assured, knowing that she will be fully ready and able to nurture and nourish her baby. Once baby arrives, his or her frequent suckling will help to produce oxytocin, an important bonding chemical, through nipple stimulation. Along with providing for the intimacy of the mother-child breastfeeding relationship, oxytocin provides an over-all feeling of calm relaxation that can benefit the let-down process, which ensures greater milk production, flow, and more successful nursing.
As its name suggests, non-maternal lactation occurs without the natural benefits of pregnancy and/or childbirth, and while it may stem from a physical condition known as galactorrhea, or even through the use of some medications used to treat high blood pressure and depression, the process may also be brought on through means of induced or forced lactation. In this instance, a woman begins the laborious process of making breast milk by using a variety of carefully regulated lactation techniques that may include the incorporation of herbal supplements, and/or diet, exercise, and nutrition therapies. While as lovely and rewarding as maternal lactation, non-maternal milk production is typically achieved through a great deal of hard work, concentrated effort, determination and desire. Some women go to great lengths to achieve lactation.
Who would want to produce non-maternal breast milk?
1. Adoptive mothers
2. Couples who wish to share the close, intimate bond of an Adult Nursing Relationship (ANR)
3. Anyone who hopes to use breast milk for its medicinal and nutritive properties (either for themselves or others)
4. Women who wish to donate to breast milk banks
5. Anyone who wishes to fulfill a personal need or desire (for any reason)
Can non-maternal lactation really be achieved?
There are many cases of successful non-maternal milk production. (I am actually one of them!) For many women, it is wonderful to know that lactation is a very real possibility for them, even if they have never been pregnant or given birth, undergone a hysterectomy, or are menopausal. While estrogen and progesterone do play a part in milk production, the crucial hormones prolactin and oxytocin are released through the pituitary gland rather than the reproductive system, which provides a woman with the ability to lactate regardless of her age or stage of life.
How is non-maternal lactation achieved?
Women generally use a variety of techniques on a strictly regulated schedule to encourage their breasts to lactate. They may include:
1. Suckling sessions
2. Manual expression in the form of deep breast tissue and/or areola massage
3. Nipple stimulation
4. Breast pumping
5. Herbal supplements (such as Fenugreek, blessed thistle, and goat’s rue)
6. Diet and nutrition, using lactogenic foods
7. Exercise and fitness
8. Meditation and visualization
9. Estrogenic essential oils
10. Skin to skin contact
11. A combination of any of these techniques
Choosing to make breast milk is a very personal choice; no matter the reason behind your decision to pursue lactation, always remember that if it feels right to you, then it is right for you!