When will your milk come in?

November 16, 2020

When will your breast milk come in

One of the most common questions many new moms ask is when their milk will come in. Many start to stress, like me, if they haven't seen any "white milk" after a few days! 

The two main hormones involved in lactation are prolactin and oxytocin. The mixture of these hormones is what causes a woman’s milk to “come in.”  In the late second- to - early third trimester of pregnancy, the woman’s body starts to make the first breast milk, colostrum.  Colostrum, or "liquid gold," is very important because it's rich in antibodies and immunities that newborns need to keep them healthy. Colostrum has often been called “the first vaccine” for this very reason.

After giving birth, colostrum is excreted from the mother’s breasts but it could take anywhere from two to five days to see any "white milk." This is when the mother’s progesterone hormone levels drop and her prolactin levels are still quite high, which cues her body to change from producing colostrum to copious milk production - the white milk. The mother’s breasts often feel full during this time as her body learns to manage the milk supply based on the baby’s needs.  Breastmilk supply is based on the mix of hormones as well as supply and demand.  This delicate mix is what maintains breastmilk supply.   

Breastmilk production is exclusively driven by hormones in these early stages.  The basic situation above is in the presence of normal hormonal regulation.  But what about mothers who have other hormonal imbalances such as thyroid disease or diabetes?  For those mothers, they may have a delay in the "white" milk production.  These situations require mothers to work closely with their physician to better regulate their hormones, which will aid in copious milk production.  Additionally, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) Diana West and Lisa Marasco, in their book The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, recommend prenatal milk expression for mothers with hormonal imbalances due to thyroid disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. in the third trimester of pregnancy.  If you have not heard of this technique and fall into categories such as these, I highly recommend this book.         

Also, here are some tips to help your milk come in sooner:

  • Nurse as soon as possible. Try to nurse your baby within 4-6 hours after giving birth. If that isn't possible, start pumping instead. A hospital-grade breast pump is ideal, but for me, I used a hand-held breast pump that worked great.
  • Nurse frequently. Breastfeed your baby at least every 2 hours (from the start of the first nursing session to the next) with no more than 4 hours at night. The more you nurse, the greater milk production.  
  • Avoid supplementing with formula if it isn't necessary. Do not supplement baby with formula unless directed by a doctor. Supplementing will reduce breast stimulation and milk removal (both needed to increase milk supply).
  • Check the latch. If your baby is not latching well and actively swallowing, milk, then it can affect milk supply and the speed that your milk comes in. A lactation can help with this!

If you are an expecting mother or family member of an expecting mother, I cannot advocate enough for education. I attribute my breastfeeding success to the lactation courses I took while I was pregnant. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Comment below! 




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