When Does Breast Milk Come In And What Are The Signs?

The production of breast milk usually happens during pregnancy and continues after birth, says the Cleveland Clinic. This milk is a good source of nutrition for your baby, since it contains all the necessary nutrients for growth and development, including antibodies, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. After your baby is born, regular breastfeeding can help you maintain your milk supply and provide your baby with the necessary nourishment.

As a new mother, you may wonder when breast milk will come in and what signs to look for. The answer to this question can vary for different mothers, and several factors can cause a delay in milk production, as Johns Hopkins Medicine explains. Remember that your body is not the same as every other woman, and the amount of milk produced can also vary from mother to mother and may depend on a range of factors. Nevertheless, the first few days after your baby's birth are critical for milk production. As your baby grows and develops, your body will produce more milk to meet your baby's changing nutritional needs, says Premier Health. Continue reading as we explore further.

How you can tell your break milk is coming in

According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs that your body is preparing for lactation begin as early as week 16 of the pregnancy. One sign that you'll notice is the thickening and darkening of your areolas. You might also notice oil secreting from your Montgomery glands, which are small but noticeable bumps that sit on top of your areola. Your nipples may also become more tender or sensitive as colostrum fluid production occurs. Colostrum is a nutrient-rich fluid that is often called "liquid gold" due to its high concentration of antibodies and other essential nutrients, and this is what your newborn will drink for the first few days after birth. Some women may experience leakage of colostrum or milk from their breasts during pregnancy or in the early postpartum period. 

Within 3-5 days after giving birth, you'll probably notice your breasts producing more milk — at this point, the colostrum transitions into mature milk. You may also notice changes in your baby's feeding behavior. Your baby may be eager to feed more frequently, and their suckling (and the stimulation of nerve endings in the nipple) signals the brain to produce the hormone prolactin. This then stimulates the milk glands in the breast to produce more milk.

As milk production increases, you may experience breast engorgement, where the breasts become swollen and uncomfortable due to excess milk — this usually happens between days 3 and 5 of breastfeeding but may continue until the 10th day, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Some breastfeeding people may experience delayed or low milk production

Typically, breast milk comes in within the first few days after giving birth. However, the amount of milk you produce won't be the same as every other woman. Some women may experience delayed lactation or insufficient milk production. This can be due to a number of factors, including stress, obesity, and current health status, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. Other women with pre-existing medical conditions may also experience delayed lactation up to 14 days after giving birth. If you're having difficulty with lactation, it's always best to talk to your doctor or seek help from a lactation consultant.

In order to facilitate milk production, one place to start is to increase your frequency of breastfeeding or pumping. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should try and do this every 4 hours — the more often you empty your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. The clinic also advises to eat healthily, drink more water, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Being well-rested can also help your body produce more milk, says WebMD. Try to take naps when you can, and ask for help with other tasks. If you find that you are still struggling to produce enough milk, taking supplements such as fenugreek or blessed thistle might help — these herbs have been known to increase milk supply. However, it's important to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.