When Does Breast Milk Come In?

Breastfeeding always seems to bring up a variety of questions and this is just as true for new moms as it is for ones who have breast fed several children in the past. The act of breastfeeding is completely natural and has been the traditional method of feeding children throughout all of history. The milk itself comes from the glands in the breasts and these are activated when a woman is pregnant. When does breast milk come in and when should you breastfeed your baby?

When does Breast Milk Come In?

Most of the time a new mom will have to wait three or four days for her milk to come in but the milk can arrive earlier if you’ve had kids before. The best sign that your breast milk is coming in is when your breasts begin to feel full which should happen a few days after you give birth.

Prolactin is the hormone that gives your body the signal to product milk and this increases during your pregnancy. While you are still pregnant, however, progesterone and other hormones in the placenta temporarily stop your body’s response.

In some cases it will take more than four days for the milk to come in and there are several possible causes:

  • It may be because the labor was stressful which could because of an emergency C-section or a pushing stage that was longer than average. If this happens, it can take two to five days for the milk to come in.
  • If you have diabetes that you treat with insulin or had gestational diabetes, then your body may have conflicting signals; your breasts will need some insulin for the milk production to begin but your body needs it as well. The best thing to do in this case is feed frequently at first as this will stimulate milk production.
  • It is also possible that some placenta fragments are still inside after the birth and they are interfering with the prolactin. If this is the case, your doctor will detect it with an ultrasound and you will still experience heavy bleeding. Your doctor can remove the retained placenta.

How to Cope with Late-Coming Breast Milk

If your milk is coming in late, then you stimulate its production by nursing every 2 to 3 hours. You should also drink a lot of fluids and get a good amount of sleep. You can also rely on a hospital-grade beast pump to help stimulate your production.

Some experts will recommend that if your milk doesn’t come in when your child is five days old, you start using formula. If you don’t want to use formula and instead stick to breastfeeding, however, you can talk to a lactation consultant. They can help you check that you are positioned properly and your baby is latching correctly. They may also suggest some supplements to aid with the production of milk.

When it comes to breastfeeding and late-coming milk, it is important to remember that there is no right answer and you don’t have to go with an all or nothing approach. If the milk is late coming in, some mothers will continue to wait; others will use formula until the milk arrives; others will use formula and then keep using it. If anyone tells you an absolute such as that formula will ruin your relationship with your child, you should ignore them.

When Should You Breastfeed?

As mentioned earlier, you can start trying to breastfeed right after your child is born. In fact, experts recommend that you try within their first hour of life as the baby will be more awake right after delivery. If you wait too long, you may find it harder to get your child to properly latch on as they will be sleepy for the next 24 hours or so.

Don’t be alarmed if your child doesn’t latch on right away as simply trying helps both of you get used to the process. It is also possible that you and your baby won’t figure out breastfeeding right away. For it to work, they need to use a wide-open mouth when latching on and have as much of the areola in their mouth as they can. If your baby falls asleep, they may not be latched on right and you can try to wake them up gently.

In order to get both of you used to breastfeeding, you should try to feed every two or three hours right away and this includes at night. If you are still in the hospital you can either have the baby in the room with you or ask the nurses to bring them in for feedings.

Tips on Breastfeeding

1. The First Feeding (Colostrum)

Before your milk comes in, you will be producing colostrum which is the first milk. In fact, your breasts will start producing this while you are still pregnant and continue to do so until your milk comes in. You should not worry about your child getting enough nutrients from the colostrum as you will produce enough to satisfy their small hunger. Because of this, you can feed your baby right away (or give them the option). Put the baby directly on your chest so you are skin to skin and cover their back with a blanket. They will then probably latch on by themselves. Don’t be surprised if they choose not to feed right after birth as some simply like to relax against their mother’s chest.

2. Skin-to-Skin Contact

During the early period of breastfeeding, you should continue encouraging skin to skin contact during breastfeeding and feed whenever your child is hungry. This process can help encourage the production of more milk. If you have problems getting your child to properly latch on, you can ask your health professional for help.

3. Feed Often

Because milk production is determined by hormone levels, every new mother will produce breast milk even if they don’t plan on pumping or breastfeeding. The important thing to remember, however, is that if your child doesn’t get fed often enough or latch on well enough your milk supply may decrease because the body will not perceive a high demand.

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