Here's When Breastfeeding Moms Should Expect Their Milk To Come In Post-Birth

by Emily Westbrooks

When you're preparing for something as mentally and physically exhausting as labor and delivery, there are a few things that can pretty easily sneak right by you. I mean, a little oversight is understandable when you're focusing on how in the ever-loving you-know-what you're going to get another human being on the outside of your body. So if you didn't ask yourself, or someone else, "When does milk supply come in after birth?" know that you're not alone and no one is going to blame you. Plus, all those breastfeeding photos you see floating around Instagram can leave even the most realistic soon-to-be mom to think milk will start flying out of her breasts the moment she gives birth. Sadly, my friends, that is definitely not the case.

According to KellyMom, a woman's milk supply usually comes in two to three days after giving birth. KellyMom does mention, however, that for an estimated 25 percent of mothers it will take longer than three days for their breast milk to come in. Colostrum, on the other hand — which is early, concentrated milk full of nutrients and disease-fighting antibodies — is "produced from about 16-22 weeks of pregnancy," according to KellyMom. So, technically your milk is already "in" prior to you giving birth, you just don't know it because, "it may not be leaking or easy to express."

So colostrum is what your baby will feed on for the first few days of his or her life, until your breast milk comes in. That's a good thing, for a variety of reasons. La Leche League International's website explains, saying:

"This special milk is yellow to orange in color and thick and sticky. It is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to help keep your baby healthy. Colostrum is extremely easy to digest, and is therefore the perfect first food for your baby. It is low in volume (measurable in teaspoons rather than ounces), but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn. Colostrum has a laxative effect on the baby, helping him pass his early stools, which aids in the excretion of excess bilirubin and helps prevent jaundice."

If you're anxious about your incoming milk supply, one way to help your milk come in more quickly is to feed your baby more frequently in those first few days, according to Fit Pregnancy. If you breastfeed your baby every two hours, this will encourage your milk supply to come in more quickly. According to BabyCenter:

"It's very important to breastfeed your baby early and often — starting in the birthing room. That's because early, frequent, and effective nursing increases prolactin activity in the breast, which helps assure an abundant and robust milk supply. The more often you feed your baby in the first 48 to 72 hours, the better your milk supply will be."

However, this can bring more frustration your way if you're new to breastfeeding and trying to master the mechanics of nursing another human being. Feeding more frequently can exacerbate problems, like a weak latch, and irritate nipples that aren't used to nursing.

BabyCenter explains that your milk supply will start to grow over the course of the few days after you give birth, and that it can differ depending on whether you've had kids before. "If you're a first-time mom, you'll probably notice your milk increasing about three to four days postpartum, with your breasts getting fuller, firmer, and heavier. If you've had a very difficult delivery, or if you notice a lot of extra swelling (edema) in your body after a prolonged induction with an epidural, you may find that it takes a day or two more for the milk volume to increase."

It's important to remember, though, that if your milk supply takes an extra day or two to come in for whatever reason, according to Parents your baby won't starve because the colostrum she is receiving has enough nutrients to keep her going.

According to Fit Pregnancy, as long as your baby is swallowing, seems satisfied, is filling up his or her diapers, and is gaining weight, your baby is getting the nutrients they need. Fit Pregnancy also reminds parents that newborns can "lose about 5 percent to 7 percent of [their] weight by his [or her] third or fourth day and be perfectly fine." If, however, your baby has lost 10 or more percent of their body weight, there may be a problem and you should contact a pediatrician immediately. By day 10, according to Fit Pregnancy, your baby should rebound to his or her birth weight.

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