When you're preparing for life with a newborn, there's a lot to consider, and if you're hoping to breastfeed, you can add a whole additional layer into that preparation. Breastfeeding your baby, whether it's your first or your fourth, always comes with questions and challenges — the first few coming right after your baby is born when you're worried about your supply. While it takes an average of three to four days for most women to produce milk, a lot of moms want to know if they can make breast milk come in faster.
Colostrum Is The First Milk & Super Important
The Medela website noted that colostrum production can begin as early as 16 weeks pregnant, and that's the first sign of milk you'll see for your baby. "Small amounts of colostrum, averaging about 37 milliliters to 123 milliliters, become available in the breast after birth within the first 24 hours," Deedee Franke, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) tells Romper. This is the yellowish-white milk you'll see when your baby is born, and you might even see it throughout pregnancy. If the baby is nursing well, Franke adds, this milk is all the baby needs nutritionally until your "real" breast milk comes in, about two to five days after your baby is born.
Breast Milk Comes In Around 3 To 4 Days Postpartum
Most women's breasts start to feel fuller and firmer about three to four days after delivery, and that signifies your colostrum changing over to milk. It can take longer or shorter for your body to transition, and your doctor will know best whether or not any supplementation is needed during this time. The time at which mothers report that their milk comes in is highly variable, continues Franke, and it can range anywhere from 38 to 96 hours after birth, with the average being 50 to 59 hours. "Mothers who had nursed other children before will probably have their milk come in faster, and have more milk volume compared to a first time mom," Franke says.
If you've struggled in the past with breast milk supply, or just really want to try and get a jump on it, you could start to stimulate your breasts and hand express milk starting around 37 weeks pregnant, says Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC. "After delivery, nurse frequently from the get-go." You can also hand express or use a pump, but in general, you won't need to do these things if your baby is latching and feeding fine.
How To Make Your Milk Come In Faster
But the fact is, when your milk comes in could ultimately just depend on your baby and how they breastfeed. "A baby that nurses frequently will often bring in mom’s milk faster," Franke says. There’s also evidence that skin-to-skin contact, initiating breastfeeding within 30 to 60 minutes after giving birth, and continuing to nurse early and often will also help make milk come in faster, reported the website Kelly Mom.
If the baby is separated from their mother, mothers can either hand express or pump to stimulate their breasts and help milk to come in. In general, Franke says, a mom can only nurse or pump in the early days postpartum to bring in and build her milk supply. There's no magic supplement. "Unfortunately, there is nothing a mom can eat or take to make her milk come in faster," she says.
And though you might already be stressing about this, it turns out that stress and worry can actually affect your supply, and possibly, when your milk comes in. As Parents noted, breastfeeding is both a physical and a psychological thing — if you can stay relaxed, take in all the sweetness of your new little baby, and stay positive and refrain from feeling frustrated about breastfeeding, you will increase your chances of breastfeeding success.
Also, as Fit Pregnancy mentioned, your body can't make milk if you're dehydrated. Water is super important for your body in many ways, but especially in breast milk production. Just don't feel like you have to chug tons of water all day. Extra water doesn’t increase supply, you just want to drink to thirst and stay hydrated.
Your body knows what to do, and if something doesn't happen like it should, there are lactation consultants and nurses available to help you. Just keep putting your baby to the breast or pumping if your baby is taking milk through a bottle.
Deedee Franke, RN, BSN, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC
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