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    When Does Breast Milk Come in? What You Need to Know

    Updated 21 November 2021 |
    Published 12 February 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    Hormones play a major role in pregnancy and milk production. During pregnancy, hormonal activities increase, and this in turn causes the mammary glands to produce milk. However, this is all just preparation for breastfeeding. Mature milk production can start within three to five days of the baby being born.

    When do you start producing milk?

    You may start producing breast milk months or weeks before your due delivery date. One of the first signs that your breasts have started producing milk is that they will become fuller and heavier, and they may even hurt sometimes. 

    During the second trimester, your breasts begin to create colostrum. Colostrum is the first food your breasts produce for your baby. It is usually thick and yellowish and contains high amounts of proteins and antibodies to strengthen your baby’s immune system. 

    Some people’s breasts may leak during this colostrum phase. This is normal. Within three to five days of delivery, your breasts go through a transition where mature milk gradually replaces colostrum. By the time your baby is around two weeks old, your breasts will only be producing mature breast milk. 

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    Do you produce enough colostrum?

    Colostrum is a yellowish fluid that feels thick to the touch. Since everyone’s body is unique, colostrum might come from your breasts anytime from the second trimester to after your delivery.  

    On average, the human body produces just 37 milliliters, or about 1.25 ounces, of colostrum in the first 24 hours after delivery. Your newborn will eat anywhere from 7–14 milliliters of colostrum during each feeding. This might seem like a very tiny amount, but remember, their tummies are small, and their kidneys are not ready to process large amounts of fluids.

    How to know the baby is getting enough milk

    Since your baby can’t speak, how can you tell when your baby is well-fed? There are ways to tell if your baby would like something to eat even before they start crying. Here are a few signs to look for to determine if it’s time to feed your baby:

    • Stretching
    • Making sucking sounds
    • Trying to suck whatever comes close to their lips.

    You can nurse when you see these signs to keep your baby well-fed and happy.

    If it seems like your baby is always hungry, regardless of feedings, you may be experiencing low milk production. Some signs that may indicate your milk production is low include:

    • Your baby’s stool may appear small after five days.
    • The baby may lose weight continuously.
    • Your baby’s urine may become darker in color.
    • Your breasts remain firm after nursing.

    If you notice any of these signs, you can talk to a lactation consultant or doctor to figure out why your baby is not getting adequate nutrients despite consistent feedings.

    Natural ways to increase your milk supply

    It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to be mindful of the things they consume because whatever they ingest can be transferred to their baby. A doctor can give you recommendations of which drugs are safe to take while breastfeeding. 

    If you would like to increase your milk production naturally, you can try these harmless methods: 

    • Feed according to your baby’s schedule, not yours. It might be more frequent or less than you imagined.
    • Make sure you eat a balanced diet. You may want to supplement with vitamins if your doctor says it’s okay.
    • Special lactation cookies and teas may help increase your milk supply.

    When does breast milk start and what does a lactation delay look like?

    Most expecting or new mothers have probably wondered when their breasts will start producing milk. Normally, after the baby arrives, the placenta is expelled. This causes a sharp drop in progesterone that will trigger the mammary glands to begin milk production. 

    Delay in the onset of milk production (lactation) can be due to a number of factors.

    Reasons milk might not come on time

    These are some of the factors that may delay production of breast milk:

    • Stress: You just went through something tremendous; giving birth can take a toll on your body
    • Incomplete removal of placenta: If placenta it is not expelled properly, then progesterone remains high, which means milk production may not be triggered as early as it should be.
    • Pain medications: The pain relief drugs you take during pregnancy, may interfere with milk production, so it’s best to consult a doctor before taking any medication.

    Risk factors for a lactation delay

    Below are some risk factors that could delay breast milk production:

    • Loss of blood: Hemorrhage during childbirth may affect the pituitary gland which controls lactation hormones.
    • Premature birth: If your baby was born premature, your body may need more time to develop the mammary glands, so it may take a while for milk production to catch up.

    Also, some medical conditions prevent lactogenesis (the beginning of lactation) entirely, such as Gestational diabetes, obesity, ovarian cysts, and some pituitary conditions. 

    What should you do if lactation is delayed?

    If your breast milk does not come on time, you may want to consider feeding your baby formula, or using a human donor (wet nurse) until the onset of your own milk. The most important thing you can do is communicate with your doctor or a lactation consultant. They can give you the best options to choose from.

    History of updates

    Current version (21 November 2021)

    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK

    Published (12 February 2019)

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