When Does Milk Come in? A Guide to Breast Milk Production

When Does Milk Come in? A Guide to Breast Milk Production

The female body is nothing short of amazing. From conception to birth, it provides your bundle of joy with everything they need to grow big and strong. But depending on the circumstances surrounding your delivery, it may take some time before your breast milk comes in. The good news is that it isn’t unusual for moms to experience a delay in breast milk production.

Every mother is different, but wanting to give their baby the best nutrition and care is something all mothers have in common. But the more you know about this phenomenon and how to boost your milk supply, the better prepared you will be to support your baby’s needs and nutrition.

When Does Milk Production Start?

As soon as you get pregnant, your body experiences hormonal changes that encourage your breasts to begin producing milk. The first step in readying your breasts for milk production is the formation of colostrum, which typically occurs throughout the second trimester, or as early as 12 weeks. As you get closer to your due date, you may experience leakage. However, this doesn’t always occur, and that’s perfectly normal.

What Is Colostrum?

Colostrum is often referred to as the first milk or liquid gold. It is much thicker than regular breast milk and is loaded with nutrients and immunity protection. This golden liquid coats your baby’s gut, helping them produce their first bowel movement, aka meconium.

For the first few days of your baby’s life, colostrum is all they will need to feel full and satiated. A little bit of colostrum goes a long way. It is packed with antibodies, protein, and carbohydrates. This thick and yellowish liquid is easy for your baby to digest, and it helps to relieve their body of amniotic fluid, which they may have swallowed throughout the birthing process.

Your first milk can also prevent your little one from getting jaundice, or at least help them to get rid of it faster.

Initial Colostrum Difficulties

Colostrum is a lot thicker than mature milk and may be difficult to pump out of the breasts. If you are unable to breastfeed your baby within an hour of their birth, you can expel colostrum by performing hand expression. Once your little one has consumed your supply of colostrum, your breasts will begin to produce transitional milk.

When Will My Milk Come in After Birth?

Once you have delivered your placenta, your hormones will spike, telling your body that it is ready to begin producing milk. This should occur within 6 days of giving birth, but again, every mother is different. During this time, your breastmilk should transition from colostrum to transitional milk, which is higher in protein and creamier in texture than mature milk.

You’ll know that you are beginning to produce transitional milk when the yellowish colostrum is replaced by bright, white milk.

After 10 to 14 days, transitional milk will begin to fade, making room for your mature milk supply. Mature milk contains both foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is much thinner than hindmilk, which is thicker and creamier in texture and has a higher fat content.

To ensure that your baby consumes both foremilk and hindmilk, it’s best not to switch them from one breast to the other too quickly. If you alternate between breasts too often, your baby may be consuming too much foremilk at once.

Signs That Your Milk Supply Is Coming In

As your milk supply comes in, you’ll notice a change in the weight, feel, and temperature of your breasts. They should feel heavier, denser, and warmer than usual. Breast engorgement is a telltale sign that your milk is coming in. This sensation can feel uncomfortable at first but the more your baby feeds, the softer your breasts will become.

Before long, your breasts will return to a familiar form. However, keep in mind that this transition does not indicate a shortage of milk but rather that your breasts have gotten used to lactation. As your body and breasts adapt to these changes, you’ll notice that your once thick and yellowish breast milk now has a thin consistency and milky appearance.

If your breasts begin to leak on their own, this is a great sign that your milk supply has come in. During this stage, a good nursing bra will go a long way.

How Do I Know if I’m Producing Enough Milk?

Mom bottle feeding her baby

The amount of breastmilk your body produces depends on how often you feed your baby. The more your nurse your baby or pump your breasts, the more milk your body will create. To ensure that your milk supply is in full swing, take note of your newborn’s hunger cues and be prepared to feed them around the clock.

The following signs indicate that you’re producing enough milk for your baby.

Your baby makes loud swallowing sounds while feeding

If you hear clicking sounds or are experiencing pain, this may indicate that your little one isn’t properly latching onto your nipples.

Your baby is nursing 8-12 times in a 24-hour period

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s best to feed your baby on demand. However, a good rule of thumb is to nurse your newborn every 2-3 hours.

Your baby is wetting 5-6 diapers every 24 hours

You’ll want to check your baby’s diapers to ensure that their urine has a light color. Should their urine appear dark, this could indicate that they are dehydrated.

Your baby is passing stool up to 4 times a day

During the first few weeks of a baby’s life, their stool will be soft and runny. Consult your doctor if their poop is dark and hard.

Your baby is gaining weight as the weeks progress

It’s perfectly normal for newborns to lose up to 5-7% of their body weight when drinking colostrum. But they should begin gaining a healthy amount of weight once your milk comes in. Within a few weeks, your little one should reach their original birth weight again.

On average, newborns will gain about 6 ounces a week. To ensure that your little one is gaining the weight they need, consult a baby weight chart or talk to your pediatrician.

What Can Delay My Milk From Coming In?

Although not impossible, it is very rare for mothers not to be able to produce enough breastmilk for their children. However, it is much more common for mothers to experience a delay in milk production, seeing as many factors can delay this phenomenon. Be patient with yourself should you experience a delay in milk formation. Your body knows exactly what to do.

The following factors may cause your milk formation to be delayed:

You’re a First-Time Mom

It can take up to 5-6 days for a new mom’s breasts to fill with milk. Your body has muscle memory, and your milk supply should come in sooner with future pregnancies. Although there is no shame in using formula, you can try and avoid this by attempting to nurse your newborn as much as possible. If your baby is drinking their colostrum, your milk supply should come in shortly.

Difficulties During Labor

If you experienced a long and stressful labor, gave birth prematurely, or underwent a C-section, your milk may be delayed by a few days. Everything from the amount of IV fluids to the medications you received during childbirth can impact your milk production. The amount of blood you lost throughout your delivery can also delay your milk.

Unable to Breastfeed Within an Hour of Birth

There are many reasons why mothers aren’t able to breastfeed their babies after birth. If your little angel had to go to the ICU, you may not have had the chance to breastfeed them. To ensure that your milk supply comes in, your lactation specialist or nurse will help you master hand expression.

Difficulties Latching Onto Your Nipple

Breastfeeding can be very tricky at first. If you encounter some issues with breastfeeding, your milk supply may get delayed. Talk to your lactation consultant to ensure that your baby is latching on with ease. Feed your newborn as often as possible to encourage milk production.

Feeling Overwhelmed or Stressed

Giving birth can be very stressful, especially for a first-time mom, but feeling stressed can delay your milk supply. A good way to destress yourself is to have plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your newborn baby.

A Medical Condition

Numerous medical conditions could prevent or delay your milk supply. PCOS, obesity, thyroid conditions, ovarian cysts, and diabetes are common causes for delayed lactation. Talk to your doctor about your medical conditions before giving birth.

Breast Surgery or Unique Nipple Anatomy

A lack of breast tissue can result in the delay of milk production. You may also face difficulties with breastfeeding if you have an uncommon nipple anatomy.

As you can see from the factors outlined above, there are many reasons as to why you may face a delay in milk production. This is perfectly normal and your milk supply should come in once your baby successfully consumes their first milk — be it through breastfeeding or pumping.

If you’re concerned, speak to your doctor, nurse, pediatrician, or lactation consultant should you experience a significant delay in milk formation.

How Do I Boost My Milk Supply?

It’s common for mothers to worry about whether or not they are producing enough milk for their babies. But you’ll know that your little angel is getting the nutrition they need if they are gaining weight and filling up their diapers. However, if you feel as though you are not producing enough milk, there are plenty of ways to boost your production.
mom breastfeeding baby at night

The following tips and tricks can be used to boost your milk supply.

Consider Your Needs and Invest in Self-Care

The body doesn’t react well to stress, and this is especially true when you’re nursing. High levels of stress can negatively impact your milk production. Many moms report feeling stressed and overwhelmed after giving birth. Try to relax and enjoy yourself by taking a warm shower, talking to a friend on the phone, or going for a walk.

You can also engage in skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Doing so will not only help you bond with them, but it’ll encourage your brain to release happiness hormones, reducing stress in the process. Skin-to-skin time is encouraged, whether you are nursing or not.

Meditate and Trust Your Body

Try not to doubt your body throughout the nursing process. Be kind to yourself and thank your body for everything it has done. You have just performed a miracle, try and relax and place your trust in the process.

Drink Plenty of Water

It’s important to be as hydrated as possible when nursing or pumping. Breast milk is 88% water, and you’ll need to stay hydrated if you want to boost your milk supply.

Eat as Healthy as Possible

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way when breastfeeding. There are plenty of foods that can boost your milk supply. Try and eat as many healthy carbs as possible. Fruits are filled with vitamins and have a high water content, which can help you produce more milk. Just bear in mind that some foods should be completely avoided when breastfeeding.

Nurse or Pump as Often as Possible

Your little one will be eating every few hours. However, if you feel like you’re not producing enough milk, you can pump between feedings to boost your supply and demand response. Your body should begin to meet you halfway once you stimulate cluster feedings.

Final Words

Nursing and pumping may come easy for some moms, but every mother is different and that’s perfectly okay. As you welcome your baby into the world, you’ll be surrounded by a team of professionals who will guide you every step of the way. If you experience a delay in milk production or some difficulties with breastfeeding, know that you’re not alone and that your body knows exactly what to do.

If you’re worried about whether or not your baby is drinking enough milk — congratulations, you’re already a wonderful mother. Try not to doubt yourself throughout this process and consult your pediatrician should your baby fall short of their milestones.

Motherhood isn’t always a walk in the park, but it is the most rewarding and beautiful experience of all time. We wish you and your family all the health and happiness in the world.