Milk, witch's
An old folk term for the milk that commonly flows from the newborn baby's breast or can be expressed from it. This transient phenomenon is due to stimulation of the baby's breasts by the mother's hormones that crossed the placenta during pregnancy. The ability of the baby's breasts to respond in this fashion is a mark of baby's having been born at (or near) full-term; the breasts of a baby whose birth is markedly premature cannot enlarge or respond with witch's milk. The expression "witch's milk" is also applied more broadly to galactorrhea, the spontaneous flow of milk from the nipple at any time other than during nursing. This can be due to "normal" factors such as an unrecognized pregnancy, trauma, surgery, over-exercise or one of a number of drugs (including amphetamine, cimetidine, female hormone replacement therapy, hydroxyzine, methyldopa, nicotine, narcotics, reserpine, antidepressants of the so-called tricyclic type, or verapamil). Or it can be due to "abnormal" factors of a pathologic nature such as cirrhosis of the liver, a false pregnancy (pseudocyesis), renal (kidney) failure, disorders of the spinal cord, or a prolactinoma (a benign pituitary tumor that secretes the hormone prolactin which stimulates milk production).

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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