When preparing to breastfeed, when will your milk come in? If you are pregnant or have just given birth, you may be concerned that your milk hasn’t come in. Let’s look at what to expect and when to expect it.
When you hear references to a new mother’s milk “dropping” or “coming in,” it refers to the process of switching from colostrum to a more voluminous supply of milk. Colostrum is a sticky, yellowish substance that is produced by the mammary glands at the end of pregnancy. It’s available immediately after giving birth and is rich in antibodies that will protect the baby against disease and infection.
You won’t produce a lot of colostrum, but rest assured that it’s enough to satisfy your baby in the first couple days of life. It’s thick and contains all the nutrients that your little one needs to thrive. A newborn baby’s stomach is small and couldn’t comfortably hold larger volumes of milk right away even if it were offered.
When your milk “comes in,” you will start to produce a more substantial supply of milk designed to fill your baby up as his stomach expands and his nutritional needs change. For most women, this occurs within the first six days of life. Your milk may drop on day two or three while it takes a week for another woman. This is a natural process, and you shouldn’t worry if it takes your milk a bit longer to come in when compared to your family members or friends.
When Does Milk Come in During Pregnancy?
In pregnancy, you may start to produce milk several weeks or months before your baby is born. If your breast start leaking, the substance is usually colostrum, which is the first milk your breasts start producing as your body gets ready for breastfeeding. Leaking is completely normal and is nothing to be worried about. If you are worried about leaking through your clothes, breast pads will be a big help!
The First 24 Hours – What to Expect
You can start breastfeeding the moment your baby is born. In fact, researchers now believe that it’s best for new babies to receive breast milk as soon after birth as possible. It’s becoming commonplace to place newborn babies immediately on their mother’s chest for instant nourishment as long as there are no urgent medical needs to address first.
Those early breastfeeding sessions may feel awkward as your baby learns how to properly latch and suck to release the colostrum. They may also seem short because it will take only a small amount of colostrum to fill your new baby’s tiny stomach. Most new babies will consume 10 ml of milk or less in the first 24 hours of life. That quickly expands to an ounce or two of milk by the end of the first week of life.
All babies are different when it comes to alertness after birth, but most babies are eager for a feeding within the first few hours of life. You may have several opportunities to help you baby latch and experiment with breastfeeding before your little one becomes exhausted and would rather sleep. Some babies will wake every two or three hours and demand food while others will become too sleepy to wake themselves.
You will share in the exhaustion during the first 24 hours of life, but waking up to breastfeed every couple hours is important. It will give your baby the colostrum that he needs for protection against illness. It will also help your breast milk come in strong. You may also enjoy just looking at your new baby and bonding with him in the first day of life.
What to Expect Beyond the First 24 Hours
Once you get past the first 24 hours of awkward feedings and sheer exhaustion, your baby should start waking up to feed at regular intervals. If you have a sleepy one who doesn’t naturally do this, you may need to continue waking them for some feedings.
It may seem like breast milk suddenly comes in or drops out of nowhere, but it’s actually a gradual process that is happening as you feed your baby in the first 24 hours and throughout the first five or six days. Your baby’s breastfeeding sessions will send a signal to your body that the baby has arrived and is in need of nourishment.
The more your baby breastfeeds in the first 24-48 hours of life, the stronger demand there is for milk. That demand should stimulate the production of more breast milk. Your baby will continue to receive colostrum while your body gradually produces more milk. Once it drops, your baby will have the opportunity to consume larger volumes of milk for satiety and nourishment.
Signs Milk is Coming In
For most women, the biggest sign of incoming milk is fullness in the breasts. You may notice a gradual increase in breast size and firmness, or it may seem like your breasts are suddenly engorged with milk. If your baby is breastfeeding every two or three hours, you can relieve engorgement and discomfort by allowing your baby to consume more milk at each feeding.
Some women experience other sensations in the breast as their breast milk comes in. That includes tingling or a warm sensation. You may also notice that your breasts are suddenly leaking. While colostrum is thick and often has a yellowish tint, your milk will become whiter and thinner as it comes in. It leaks easier than colostrum and will quickly build in your breasts if you aren’t feeding your baby at least every three hours.
Ways to Encourage Milk Production
The simplest and most effective way to stimulate the production of breast milk is to breastfeed every two or three hours. Like all great things in life, consistency is key. You want to send the message to your body that you have a healthy, strong baby in need of nourishment. The more frequent your feedings in the first couple days of life, the more breast milk you’re likely to produce when it comes in.
Many women will successfully stimulate a strong supply of milk within two to five days. If you want to encourage a more plentiful milk supply, the following tips may help:
* Aim to completely empty both breasts at each breastfeeding session. That may happen easily in the first few hours of life because most babies are interested in feeding during that time. As your baby becomes sleepier and you share in the exhaustion, it’s important to keep up the routine of emptying the breasts every two hours, or three hours at most. You may choose to pump until your breasts are empty if your baby doesn’t do the job for you. While it’s just your colostrum, hand expression may also help.
* Give your body everything it needs to create milk. Drink a lot of water. Eat a healthy diet loaded with vitamins and minerals that will pass to your new baby. The greater your health, the more likely you are to produce a healthy volume of milk.
* Take advantage of the lactation consultant and knowledgeable nurse working in most birthing centers and hospitals today. Ask questions. Have them look closely as your baby latches and starts to feed. Use their knowledge to learn about the best breastfeeding positions and techniques. It could make the difference between a slow start to milk production and producing like a champ.
* Speak up if you need help. If you’re concerned that your milk isn’t dropping or growing in supply, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or guidance. If you’re still in the hospital, bring it up to your doctor, nurse or lactation consultant. If you’re at home when concerns arise, call the doctor or hire a lactation consultant to work with you and your baby.
The best thing you can do for your baby is relax and enjoy the breastfeeding experience one stage at a time. The more rest you receive and the less stress you experience, the greater your chance of producing a lot of milk that nourishes your baby for months or even years to come.
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- 20 Ways to Increase Milk Production
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- What to Expect in the First 24 Hours After Birth