When will my milk come in?
By Sara Keli
When you have your baby, you have this picture in your mind of breastfeeding and the beautiful bonding experience you expect it to be. And then baby arrives, and all you have is this thick yellow fluid that only seems to come out of your breasts a few measly drops at a time. So, when will your proper milk come in?
That thick yellow fluid is colostrum, a highly nutritious fluid filled with antibodies that your baby will drink before your milk comes in. Whether you notice it or not, your breasts are actually starting to produce colostrum while you are still pregnant. Our bodies are truly amazing!
In the first few days of their life, your baby will drink the colostrum that your breasts produce. And yes, this is enough for them – their tummies really are tiny at birth. Colostrum is designed to fill babies up while they – and you – are learning the breastfeeding techniques you will need when your milk comes in.
If you need breastfeeding latching tips, you should ask your midwife or lactation consultant for help early on. If you aren’t using the correct latch or feeding technique, this can cause quite a lot of pain for you and frustration for your baby.
48-72 hours postpartum
Within 2-4 days after your baby is born, you might start to notice that your breasts feel fuller. They may be swollen, engorged and painful to touch. They may also start leaking fluid. Congratulations – your milk has come in!
There is no hard and fast rule as to what day your milk will come in as every mother is different and can depend on many factors including the experience you had during childbirth. Rest assured that the colostrum you are producing is enough for your baby until your milk does arrive. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand: the key is to keep feeding your baby at regular intervals to keep up the supply.
When the milk settles
Eventually your body will become accustomed to its new role as a milk machine and you won’t have those uncomfortable feelings of engorgement anymore. But for the first month of breastfeeding, you are still establishing your supply as your body learns how much milk it needs to produce so keep feeding baby regularly, get plenty of rest, keep your fluids up and eat a nutritious diet. Breastfeeding is hard work!
It can help to be organised with some breastfeeding supplies so that when your milk does come in you aren’t sending your partner out to buy things in a rush. Here is a list to get you started:
- A good maternity bra or two. Not only are maternity bras softer and more flexible to allow for the constant fluctuations in your breasts, they also give you easy access for that hungry baby! When you are feeding for 45 minutes every two hours – or what can seem like all day, every day – this is important.
- Breast pads will help to keep your maternity bras clean and dry from inevitable leaks – when your milk does come in, it can often arrive with a vengeance. You can buy both disposable and washable breast pads so it’s up to you which you prefer.
- A water bottle. Keep this with you at all times while you’re feeding, as it’s very important for breastfeeding mums to stay hydrated.
- A good breast pump can be a great investment, particularly if you would like to be able to feed baby expressed breast milk from a baby bottle once your supply is established.
- A nursing pillow can also help with posture and ensuring you are comfortable while you are feeding your baby … especially given how much time you will spend in the same position while breastfeeding!
If at any time you are concerned about your milk supply, speak to your doctor, midwife, a lactation consultant, or the Australian Breastfeeding Association. There is so much help and support out there for breastfeeding mums, so make the most of it! Remember that it’s completely normal to have questions and concerns – after all, this is something completely new for you and your baby to navigate together.