During and after pregnancy, mothers experience many incredible changes, especially in their breasts. For those who choose to breastfeed, wondering ‘how long does it take for milk to come in?’ is common. It’s perfectly normal for new mothers to have questions, and to feel a little overwhelmed at times, which is why we’re here every step of the way for new mothers who are beginning their breastfeeding journey.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to breastfeeding. Here we’ll discuss all things colostrum, answering common questions, such as ‘when does milk come in after birth?’ and ‘when does breast milk come in during pregnancy?’ As always, seek a second professional opinion if you have questions or concerns.
How to prepare for breastfeeding
Being prepared can help mothers feel calm when milk comes in after birth. Here are a few tips on how mothers can prepare to breastfeed:
Schedule a breast check with a healthcare professional. This can be especially helpful for moms who have flat or inverted nipples, as it can help them learn what to expect from breastfeeding and any modifications they may need.
Establish breastfeeding goals. Research shows breastfeeding goals help mothers stay on track and feel motivated about breastfeeding.
Create a feeding plan. Just like you have a birthing plan, a feeding plan can help parents get their health care professionals and support network ready and prepared. For example, educating family on how pumping and breastfeeding routines work can help them understand how they can help.
Plan for skin-to-skin contact. Help kick-start the baby’s instinctive feeding needs through skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth.
Anticipate how breastfeeding may evolve as the baby grows. Learn more about how babies develop and how the breastfeeding journey will change to meet an infant’s growing needs.
Mothers should also establish a support team to help them along their breastfeeding journey. What constitutes as a support team? This could include healthcare professionals, antenatal classes, a lactation consultant, as well as apps, online communities and keeping experienced friends and family members nearby.
Reading up on how to prepare for breastfeeding and sharing resources with family and friends can help mothers and their first-line supporters such as partners feel more confident and involved.
When does breast milk come in during pregnancy?
So, when do mothers start producing milk? Milk production actually begins during a woman’s pregnancy. In the time leading up to giving birth, the breasts are busy preparing to make milk and women often notice changes to their breasts. These changes during pregnancy may include:1
Tenderness and hypersensitivity
Increase in breast size
Larger and darker nipples
Raised bumps around the areola
Darkened veins on breasts
Leaking of colostrum
How exactly is breast milk made? While the breasts are preparing to produce milk, there are two important hormones that are hard at work to make the milk: prolactin and oxytocin. The prolactin is what makes the milk and is activated when the nipple or areola is stimulated. The oxytocin hormone ejects the milk and is activated by a baby’s sound, smell, or sucking.
Throughout the pregnancy, breast milk is usually suppressed by progesterone until the mother gives birth, at which time the prolactin kicks in.
When does breast milk come in after birth?
We’ve covered when breast milk is produced, so now let’s look at what happens after birth. The first 36 to 72 hours after giving birth will play a large role in determining a mother’s milk supply, which is why it’s important to try to build it up during this time.
Mothers should try to stimulate their breasts as much as possible after giving birth either by feeding frequently or using a breast pump. Consider thisdouble electric breast pump that reduces expression time and has a soft massage cushion that gently stimulates milk flow.
When does breast milk start? A mother’s first milk will usually come in right after giving birth but will change in the weeks to follow. Below is a breakdown of how and when milk transitions after birth: 2
1. The colostrum
The first milk that comes in after birth is called colostrum, a substance that is high in proteins, carbohydrates, and antibodies. For some mothers, colostrum is thick and yellowish while others may produce a more thin and watery substance.
When does colostrum come in? During the first 24 hours after giving birth. This is the milk that newborns consume in the first few days of life and has everything that he or she needs to thrive.
2. The transition milk
If colostrum is what comes in right after birth, how long does it take for milk to come in? Great question! Usually, mothers start to notice their transitional milk coming in between days three and five after giving birth. But if it takes longer than a few days to produce this milk, there is no reason for concern. In the meantime, a doctor should be notified just to ensure that the baby gets the nutrients he or she needs.
Transition milk is produced between colostrum and mature milk and usually lasts up to two weeks. During this stage, the milk may appear lighter in color. However, it still contains those important immunologic components that newborns need.
3. The mature milk
Within about two weeks after giving birth, the mature milk starts to come in. This type of breast milk is usually produced in larger quantities, especially if the breasts are frequently stimulated.
Mature milk varies in fat content from feed to feed and is exactly what babies need for the first six months of life.
It typically takes about three to six weeks of exclusive breastfeeding to establish a good milk supply. Mothers can then choose to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding. This natural baby bottle is a great option for bottle feeding because its ultra-soft nipple more closely resembles the breast. The wide, breast-shaped nipple with flexible spiral design and comfort petals allows natural latch on and makes it easy to combine breast and bottle feeding.
We know that there are a lot of questions that come with breastfeeding. But a little advanced preparation goes a long way for mothers looking to enjoy a successful breastfeeding journey.