When Does My Milk Come In? Useful Breastfeeding Information

mum breastfeeding newborn baby

Women find that one perk of being pregnant is that their breasts start to grow quite early on, they become fuller and larger and this is usually all down to the body’s way of getting the breasts ready for breastfeeding. Some women find their breasts grow from around the 12 week mark and continue to gain fullness until closer to the babies due date.

Milk production starts from 12 weeks onwards, some women find they leak a little, other women don’t notice anything until closer to the end of the pregnancy. However this isn’t milk how you would think milk to be, because it is in fact a slightly different substance called colostrum.

Colostrum is known as the First Milk, or Liquid Gold, it contains millions of good bacteria, is highly concentrated and filled with antibodies, it gives the baby everything its body needs in those first few days after their birth. A newborn baby’s tummy is really tiny and this concentrated milk is exactly what they need. A mother produces colostrum from anything from one to five days. After this time the more mature milk will come in, it will start to resemble milk as you would think to look at it if it were expressed. Although breastmilk can come in a variety of colours and it often depends upon fat content within the milk. You will know that you have your milk in because your breasts will start to fill faster and even become engorged. 

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How Do I Know My Milk Has Come In?

When you have given birth to your baby, whatever way that might be, you have to get to know one another. Breastfeeding encourages the bond between mother and baby, and having lots of skin to skin contact is a great way to do that. Positions for breastfeeding is also important, make sure you get help from the hospital before you go home and make sure to do some research before giving birth so that you know what to expect.

Your milk comes in first as Colostrum, and then anything from two to five days later you will notice your breasts being full and even engorged, meaning they are tender and bulging with milk. Your tiny newborn will need to feed regularly for the first few weeks, sometimes every hour or two. It may sound like hard work, but actually your breasts will need emptying and that is exactly what baby will help to do. Most women find they have milk by day number five after birth, but all women are different. To ensure your milk comes in you need to put baby to the breast regularly, watch out for feeding queues and make sure that the latch is deep and correct. This means they will be able to efficiently get your milk out from the breast.

Breasts are amazing; did you know that a backwash or babies saliva enters your nipple during a breastfeeding session? What that then does is tell your body exactly what baby needs at that time, so that the breast can make the next lot of milk that would benefit baby. There are also properties of breastmilk that help baby to sleep which is a bonus.

You may find that you are leaking a lot more milk since your breastmilk came in properly, especially if baby cries. I can say that wearing reusable washable breast pads that are available online was a game changer for me, I can highly recommend them. Disposables cannot be recycled and are expensive when you use several of those a day if you leak a lot. Make sure to change whichever you go for regularly to avoid infection and always air your nipples after a feed to avoid them getting sore too.

What is a Let-Down?

When your baby is sucking on the breast to remove the milk it causes muscles within the breast tissue to squeeze the milk down and out towards the nipple. Some women feel the let-down every time and others feel nothing at all. Every woman is different, and some women get tingling or pulling sensations too, others never had these experiences. But it is all very normal. Some babies cope well with sudden let-downs of milk and others will find the flow is too fast, they may cough or pop off the breast during this time. If you find that baby is not coping with a let-down try to adjust your position, and also consider talking to your local breastfeeding coordinator or your midwife.

A rhythm should start to occur once baby gets used to feeding and your milk is in properly. You will find baby takes more shallow sucks and then they turn to longer ones due to them getting milk from the let-down as opposed to hind milk at the front of the breast which is easier for them to suck out.

Some babies tend to fall asleep during their feeds; this is normal unless they are suffering with jaundice and need to be kept awake so as to get enough milk. You can stoke babies face, tickle their chin or feet to try and keep them focussed on their rhythm to feed. Babies are learning to feed just as you are learning to feed them, it is a learning curve for both of you but the benefits to breastfeeding for both mother and her baby is astounding.

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Feeding Queues and Feeding Often

A baby has many ways to say they are hungry, crying is of course one of them but people find they have a crying baby because they missed some of the initial queues from their little one, and then they have to calm them before feeding. So look out for the following before baby gets upset, these are that baby will make noises, suck at their fingers or wrist, they can just be restless and wriggly, and they can even open their mouth wide as if searching for the breast. When a baby does the open mouth it is called Rooting, they are trying to smell the milk and find it.

Some newborn babies feed every hour or two for the first few weeks; this is known as cluster feeding. Baby has a tiny tummy, and it gets full fast but also breastmilk digests quickly, so you might find baby wants feeding only two hours later or sometimes even earlier. This is normal.

You cannot over feed a breastfed baby, so if you have full or engorged breasts make sure to feed your baby, even if they don’t seem to stay on very long. You don’t want to develop mastitis and if you’re in pain or have any redness on the breast contact your GP. Providing they are having plenty of wet nappies during this time you’re doing everything right. As they get a little older you will notice feeds will go a little longer and they may space the time out due to their tummy getting bigger and holding more milk. But be aware that during growth spurts and developmental leaps baby may cluster feed again to give its body everything it needs during that time.

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Building Your Own Milk Supply Up

Women find after a month or two their breasts will settle down, they are less engorged and they are now in more of a routine with their baby. Your breasts are incredible because at every feed your baby tells the breast exactly what it needs at the next feed, and your body will respond accordingly. Breastfeeding at night time is when your hormone known as prolactin is at its highest, this means
that to maintain your milk supply for as long as possible, this hormone production is essential. By feeding at night you are building up that hormone to continue your journey.

The best way to maintain your breast milk supply once it is established is to feed baby at the breast as often as you can and as often as they are asking for milk. Make sure that you look after yourself, eat plenty and drink plenty of water – I had never known thirst until I became a breastfeeding mum during a feed I was always so desperate to drink water. My tip is to get a reusable water bottle or two and put them where you sit to feed your baby (along with your TV remote).

If you need further advice please talk to your midwife and hospital breastfeeding team and good luck on your breastfeeding journey.

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