Wait, what? What do I mean “when does breastmilk come in?”
Breastmilk production is actually a bit of a process. Your body produces a variety of milk dependent on the stage that your baby is at. While this is something that your body will naturally do it does take some time and work.
The first milk that your body will create is called “Colostrum”. This milk is low in fat and carbohydrates (which are hard for your baby to digest in those first days), and high in protein. It’s easy to digest and contains what your baby needs to create temporary protection until his immune system begins to develop on its own. It also acts as a laxative to help your baby pass meconium.
Colostrum is thicker than the breastmilk you’ll start producing in a couple of weeks and can be yellow, orange, or even pink!
Here’s the super cool thing about colostrum: your body starts to produce it during your pregnancy. You can actually start collecting and freezing colostrum before your baby comes so that they get an extra boost of this invaluable milk.
Grab some syringes from your local pharmacy and hand express colostrum into the syringe. You won’t collect much (a couple of ml at a time). Make sure to date it and freeze it in a freezer bag. You can give this to your baby in the first days unthawed directly through the syringe.
So, when will my breastmilk come in?
Your colostrum will start to change to breastmilk at around 2-6 days after birth.
It takes a couple of weeks for your breastmilk to fully come in.
During this first two weeks you might find that your breasts feel FULL! Some mothers experience only a bit of this fullness while others feel as if they’re going to burst. This is due to blood flow increasing to the breasts as well as swelling of tissue.
It’s important during this time to make sure that you’re feeding your baby frequently. Not only will this relieve the congestion and reduce that feeling of engorgement, but it will also stimulate your milk production.
Some other ways to relieve the pressure are:
-Apply warm compresses to the breasts
-Express some milk between feedings
-Use an ice pack to reduce swelling
-Gently massage the engorged area
-Apply cabbage leaves
There are times when a mother will become so engorged that she finds it difficult to latch her baby on. In this case try hand expressing or pumping a bit of milk to soften the breast tissue and allow baby to draw out the milk to empty the breast.
Will I be engorged for as long as I’m breastfeeding?
As your body begins to stabilize and figure out how much your baby needs (yep-your body can do that. Amazing, eh?) you’ll find that your breasts become softer.
This is confusing to some women because it feels like you can no longer feel the milk in the breasts, and many women start to wonder if they are no longer producing enough milk.
If your baby is having 6-8 wet diapers and 2-5 poops a day you can be assured that you do have enough milk. If this is not the case you may need to try some different strategies to increase your milk supply.
How do I get my breastmilk to come in?
Frequent nursing is key to bringing your breastmilk in. It’s advised to breastfeed your baby at least every two hours, but it’s best to keep one eye on the clock and one eye on your baby. If your baby is showing signs of hunger before two hours feed her whenever there’s a slight indication she may want to feed. If she’s gone for two hours without feeding wake her up (tickle her feet, blow on her neck, take off her clothes) to give her some milk.
Skin to skin contact is also an important step in establishing your breastmilk supply. GET NAKED! Seriously, as often as possible strip that baby down to a diaper and get yourself topless to cuddle and nurse your baby.
This is why it’s so important to ask potential visitors to always check in with you before visiting-you need to be 100% at ease and comfortable in your surroundings. Feeling like you can focus comfortably on your baby without having to worry about the distraction of visitors or other duties/obligations for a few weeks will be a major aid in helping your breastmilk come in.
In short, the answer to “when will my breastmilk come in?” is approximately two weeks for your mature milk to come in. In those two weeks, you get to watch the miraculous transition from colostrum to breastmilk while potentially enjoying a very, very full cup size!