Moments after I had been wheeled into the recovery room following a C-section, the nurse asked me if I'd like to try breastfeeding my baby. I nodded, but inside, I was totally confused. I had read that around day three of being postpartum, my milk would come in, so what exactly was my daughter about to drink? How does baby nurse before my milk comes in?
Turns out, your body has been preparing for this moment. And when it comes to breastfeeding, it's been ready for a few weeks. According to Kelly Mom, your body begins producing colostrum, an early, concentrated milk full of nutrients and antibodies, as early as 16 weeks into your pregnancy. It's not considered your "milk," but it is necessary for your little one.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tera Hamann tells Romper that colostrum is crucial for the baby because of how nutrient-dense it is, especially the first feeding in the first couple of hours. "As soon as baby is born, your body will have colostrum for baby until you transition to milk," she says. But Hamann notes that because colostrum is so thick and pumps are not as effective as a baby, it's common not to get much if you're trying to pump in those early days. (Which will probably freak you out, but don't panic.)
It's also common not to see a whole lot of colostrum because your baby's tummy is so small — they aren't chugging the two or three ounces they may be eating in just a few weeks. If you're worried that you don't have enough milk, IBCLC Tori Sproat of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services suggests that consistently stimulating your breasts eight or more times in 24 hours, along with breastfeeding, will encourage your mature milk to "come in." By watching your baby's diaper count, you can also be sure they're getting enough colostrum until you see your mature milk show up.
If you want more proof of the amazing milk your body's already producing for your little one, Hamann recommends learning how to hand express your milk so that you can see for yourself what your baby is drinking. She notes that you should talk to an IBCLC to learn how to do it properly so that the technique is actually helpful.
It's a common misconception that your baby needs some kind of supplementation before your milk officially comes in, so rest easy knowing your baby is getting plenty to eat during those first few days. It may not seem like much, but your colostrum is exactly what they need to help teach them the suckle and swallow reflex as well as build up their immune system. Once your mature milk comes in, baby should be off to a good start. If you're concerned about how your baby is breastfeeding, reach out to an IBCLC for specific help.