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When Will My Breast Milk Come In?

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Breast milk secretion is a natural process that begins in the mid-stage of pregnancy. Read the article below to learn more about breastfeeding.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sonal Prasad

Published At June 30, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 4, 2024

Introduction:

Almost all women worry about breastfeeding, especially when they are new milking women. Pregnancy and breastfeeding lead every woman to numerous physiological and emotional changes.

Colostrum is the special milk secreted during the initial days after delivery. It is secreted in small amounts, about 40 to 50 milliliters on the first day. But, it is sufficient to meet the infant's needs now. It is rich in white blood cells and antibodies, especially IgA, and it contains added protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, and K) than the milk that is secreted later. Colostrum provides immune protection and helps develop the infant's immune system. It is essential to feed every baby with colostrum milk and not other feeds at this time.

Milk secretion increases between two to four days after delivery, making the breasts feel full; the milk is said to have “come in.” After seven to 14 days, the breast milk is called transitional milk, and after two weeks, it is called mature milk. The concentration of all these types of milk varies according to the growing needs of the infants. That is why breast milk is considered the best source of nutrition for growing infants.

When Will My Milk Come In?

Milk “coming in” generally refers to when the mother first notices physiological changes in her breast, including increased breast fullness, tenderness, or heaviness when milk production begins.

The milk secretion begins even before delivery. Colostrum, the first milk secreted from the mother's breast, is formed when the mother is about four months pregnant. However, the breast milk's flow, volume, and composition are established when the milk starts “coming in.”

Usually, the milk will change in concentration and increase in volume even if the mother practices breastfeeding. However, the prolactin hormone starts the breast milk secretion postpartum, so the body will continue making milk irrespective of breastfeeding.

Mothers may notice their milk secretion increasing about three to four days after delivery and their breasts getting fuller, firmer, and heavier and will know signs milk is coming in. However, if they are a new mother and have had a difficult delivery, or if there are any other complications with the delivery, it may take time (a day or two) for the milk volume to increase. Also, with the second or later babies, milking women are more likely to experience milk production earlier. Though these time frames are variable for every woman, it may be earlier for some milking woman and later for others.

When Should I Start Breastfeeding?

It is important to start breastfeeding the baby as early as possible and feed the baby more often. Early and frequent breastfeeding increases prolactin activity and builds a proper milk supply in the breast. Hence, the more often mothers feed their babies, the better will be their milk supply.

Additionally, the early milk contains colostrum which is essential for the overall well-being of the baby as it provides protection against various infections and prevents many systemic conditions in later stages of life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuing breastfeeding until the mother and the baby desire it. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and the baby. It also reduces the chances of breast and ovarian cancer in breastfeeding mothers—skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding builds an emotional bond between the mother and the newborn babies.

How Long Does It Take for Milk to Come In?

Milk production generally starts to increase between 30 to 40 hours after delivery of the placenta. But for some mothers, it may take some time for these changes to happen. Signs that the milk secretion is increasing may include the following:

  • Breast fullness, swelling, and heaviness.

  • Warmth (increase in temperature of the breast).

  • Breast engorgement.

  • Tingling sensation in the breast.

  • Leaking milk from the breast.

  • Change in baby’s feeding patterns.

  • Concentration change in milk secretion. The milk changes from thicker golden colostrum to thinner and whiter mature milk.

What Should I Do if My Milk Does Not Come by Day Four?

The time of milk secretion is variable for all women, and the new mothers may get the milk secretion later than experienced mothers. However, if the mothers do not have milk secretion by day four, they may seek the help of their doctor or lactation specialist. Under such situations, they may consider the following:

  • Mothers may check for complete emptying of their breasts frequently and thoroughly.

  • Maintaining skin-to-skin contact with their baby can also help with milk production.

  • They should monitor their baby’s weight to ensure that they get enough milk. Breastfeeding needs to be evaluated if the baby loses more than seven percent of their birth weight.

  • If the baby is not getting enough milk, other supplements should be given after consultation with a doctor.

  • Mothers may seek help from a local board-certified lactation consultant to increase their milk production.

  • If the delay is due to other reasons, then the causative factors should be determined to increase the milk supply. For example, if retained placental fragments inhibit milk secretion, removing the placental fragments will increase milk production.

  • Tests for checking hormonal levels can be performed (thyroid, testosterone, prolactin).

Conclusion:

Nursing takes time and practice for every mother. Breastfeeding can be initially challenging for a new parent, but at the same time, it can be rewarding for some. Little patience and some practice can help mothers achieve a successful breastfeeding experience with their babies. The earlier experience might be painful for many mothers. However, when the mothers learn the comfortable position for themselves and their baby, it becomes easier gradually. Mothers should maintain skin-to-skin contact with their babies and feed their babies as often as possible. This stimulates the milk supply in the breast. Mothers may seek help from an experienced mother or lactation specialist to learn the proper latching techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Happens When Breast Milk Does Not Come Out?

Breast milk is never truly empty. If the breast milk is low, the baby can become fussy and unhappy, it may not produce enough wet diapers, and the baby will feed for a long time. To overcome this, hand expressing or pumping should be done in between nursing sessions. The mother should eat and drink well and should be stress-free. If breastmilk is not removed for a long time, it can result in leaky breasts. Later, it can become sore and swollen, which is called breast engorgement.

2.

What Are the Signs When Breast Milk Flows?

Signs when breast milk flows are a change in baby’s sucking rate from rapid sucking to rhythmically sucking, a tingling sensation in the breast, a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the breasts, leaking of milk from another breast while feeding, change in breast milk color from clear to thicker mature milk, and feeling thirsty.

3.

Why There Is No Production of Milk From Breast Even After Pressing It?

Everybody is different, and milk supply is based on supply and demand. The more it is removed, the more it is formed. Pressing or hand expressing the breast for too long cannot increase milk supply, and pressing it too hard can only hurt the breasts. Instead, pressing and breastfeeding frequently with an interval of thirty minutes and avoiding infant formulas can increase the milk supply.

4.

What Are The Reasons For Not Producing Breast Milk?

Reasons for not producing breast milk are premature birth, the baby having to be kept under observation for a long time and being unable to be breastfed, infections that cause fever, cesarean delivery, traumatic birth, postpartum hemorrhage, being obese, taking birth control pills, intake of alcohol and smoke, history of breast surgery, and conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid and diabetic.

5.

Can Breast Pumping Help In Milk Production If There Is No Enough Milk?

Yes, breast pumping or hand expressing can help in increasing milk supply. Pumping should be done frequently in between nursing sessions, which signals the brain to produce more milk. Being hydrated and eating well can help increase milk supply.

6.

How Can Breastmilk Be Increased?

Breast milk increases when more milk is taken out, and therefore, the more feeding is done, the more milk is produced. This can be increased by 
- Breastfeeding the baby more often with an interval of thirty minutes. 
- Checking if the baby is latching well. 
- Checking both breasts offered to the baby. 
- Emptying breasts after each feed by hand expressing or using a pump. 
- Avoiding pacifiers and infant formulas. 
- Sleeping well. 
- Maintaining a healthy diet. 
- Hand expressing or pumping milk in between the nursing sessions. 
- Massaging the breasts before feeding. 
- Being stress-free.

7.

Can C-Section Delay Breast Milk?

Yes, a C-section (cesarean section) can potentially delay the onset of breast milk production in some cases. This delay is often due to the impact of surgery and anesthesia on the hormonal processes that trigger milk production. However, it is important to note that breast milk production can still occur, and many mothers who have undergone C-sections are ultimately able to breastfeed successfully.

8.

How To Prepare Nipples Before Breastfeeding?

 
There is no need to scrub or rub on nipples, which may hurt them and can cause difficulty in breastfeeding. Avoid washing them because the small protrusions around the nipple called Montgomery's glands produce oil, which helps in lubricating the skin, maintains its PH balance, and also helps in fighting off germs. The bacteria that are present on the surface of the nipples help in developing a newborn’s gut microbiome.

9.

What Are the Signs of Empty Breast Milk?

There is always a production of milk. Breasts are never truly empty. Some of the signs of empty or low breast milk are,
- Soft and light breasts, 
- No letdown reflex from another breast while feeding. 
- The baby is fussy and wants to be breastfed frequently. 
- No leaking breasts. 
- The baby is not producing enough wet diapers. 
- No increase in the baby’s weight.

10.

Do Squeezing Breasts Have Negative Effects During Pregnancy?

Squeezing early can cause stimulation of nipples, which can lead to preterm labor. Squeezing breasts gently after reaching full-term labor, which is 39 weeks, has positive effects which can help in collecting colostrum (a clear liquid that is full of antibodies and antioxidants), stimulate milk production, increase blood flow to the breasts, and can prevent engorgement.  

11.

What Are The Factors That Can Decrease Breast Milk Supply?

Factors that can decrease the milk supply are feeling stressed, anxious, or having postpartum depression due to lack of sleep, looking after the baby and change in hormone levels; giving infant formula and not breastfeeding regularly because milk supply works on supply and demand; not eating much or drinking too little; and getting sick and if it is associated with fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue can decrease the milk supply.

12.

Will A Baby Nurse If There Is No Breast Milk?

During the initial days, the nipples have to be kept inside the baby’s mouth and make sure it has latched well. If the milk supply is low, the baby may nurse for some minutes, can become fuzzy, and may unlatch itself from the breast.

13.

Does Soft Breast Mean No Milk?

Soft breasts after breastfeeding are normal, which means the baby has removed all the milk from the breast. However, soft breasts before breastfeeding can indicate less milk supply, which can be due to not feeding frequently enough, using infant formulas, being stressed, not drinking or eating well, and being sick, which is associated with fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue.

14.

Can Squeezing Breast Increase Milk Production?

Squeezing breasts with minimal pressure frequently in between nursing sessions can increase milk production. However, squeezing it too hard or too long can hurt them and can cause difficulty during feeding. Hand expressing or pumping in between nursing sessions signals the brain to produce more milk.

15.

How Long Can a Baby Survive Without Milk?

Initially, the newborns should be breastfed every twenty to thirty minutes, and on-demand, they will nurse about 10 to 12 times per day. There should not be more than four hours of gap between feeding, which can lead to low glucose levels.
Dr. Sonal Prasad
Dr. Sonal Prasad

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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