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•  Control of milk secretion by oxytocin and prolactin

The production and secretion of milk by maternal mammary glands following birth is called lactation

  • It is predominantly controlled and regulated by two key hormones – oxytocin and prolactin 

Prolactin is responsible for the development of the mammary glands and the production of milk

  • It is secreted by the anterior pituitary in response to the release of PRH (prolactin releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus
  • The effects of prolactin are inhibited by progesterone, which prevents milk production from occurring prior to birth

Oxytocin is responsible for the release of milk from the mammary glands (milk ejection reflex)

  • It is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted by neurosecretory cells that extend into the posterior pituitary
  • Oxytocin release is triggered by stimulation of sensory receptors in the breast tissue by the suckling infant
  • This creates a positive feedback loop that will result in continuous oxytocin secretion until the infant stops feeding

Hormonal Regulation of Breastfeeding