Are you a new breastfeeding mama waiting for her milk to come in? Waiting for you milk to come in can seem like its taking forever, even though it’s only been a couple days since you gave birth. This post will explain what to expect in the first few days of breastfeeding and how to make your milk come in faster. Keep reading to find out!
How Fast Should Your Milk Come In: What’s Normal?
Before you start panicking about your milk not coming in fast enough, you need to know what’s normal. It may be that your expectations don’t match what is actually occurring perfectly naturally in your body.
Whether you are a new mom or still pregnant, it is so important to have a good understanding of breastfeeding. The first few days after birth can seem so scary. You’re in charge of a tiny creature you’ve only just met, and their life is literally depending on you (not to mention your body has just gone through a huge ordeal, hormons are flying and you’re going on little to no sleep!).
Your top job is making sure your babe gets the nourishment they need, which is tricky, because you’ve never breastfed before either! It can feel completely overwhelming.
I struggled with the first few weeks of breastfeeding. It seemed so strange that after a pregnancy of counting and measuring EVERYTHING, there was no way to measure exactly how much milk your baby was drinking. You just have to wait and see if baby starts to have wet diapers and gain weight. It was such a scary leap of faith.
The one thing that really saved me was that I had done extensive research on breastfeeding, as well as taking a breastfeeding course at my local hospital. Breastfeeding was scary, but at least I had an idea of what to expect and I knew that our breastfeeding experience was pretty normal. I can only imagine how unnerving it would be if I didn’t have those facts.
I strongly encourage all pregnant moms to take a breastfeeding course before giving birth. Check with your hospital or local lactation support group to see if there is a free one offered in your area.
If no class is offered or if you’ve already given birth (or maybe the timing doesn’t work for you, or maybe you’d just rather do your learning at home in your PJ’s), don’t worry. This online breastfeeding course, created by a certified lactation educator is absolutely amazing. It’s a handful of short, informative and easy to understand videos that will teach you just about EVERYTHING you could possibly be wondering about breastfeeding. You can snuggle up on the couch with your bump (or baby) and watch away.
And the best part is that it’s SUPER affordable! You can’t put a price on knowledge, but this course is definitely a bargain! Having a good understanding of breastfeeding and the confidence to handle the inevitable bumps in the road is priceless!
Colostrum: Liquid Gold
The first few days after baby’s birth, your milk will NOT have come in, and that’s totally normal. Instead of milk, your breasts of producing tiny amounts of colostrum, a super rich substance absolutely packed full of nutrients and antibodies that will provide EVERYTHING your baby needs in the first few days of life.
You may try pumping and be disappointed that almost nothing comes out. Don’t worry. Your baby’s stomach is about the size of the cherry and your breasts are producing just enough colostrum to fill your baby’s tummy.
How Long Until Your Milk Will Come in?
After about two to four days your milk will come in and your breasts will feel engorged. This time varies slightly for everyone. Three days is the average, but about 25% of women take slightly longer.
Don’t forget that often first time moms often have their milk come in slightly later (about one day later) than second or third time moms. I took five days with my first and had no negative effects.
Interestingly, your milk will begin to increase biochemically 30-40 hours after birth, but you may not notice the typical signs (engorgement, leaking). These signs will be noticable a couple of days later.
Some women wonder if they will be able to tell when there milk comes in. There is no question you will know. Your breasts will feel very full, large, tight and a bit painful. You’ll probably leak milk while baby is nursing, when you hear your baby cry or even think of your baby!
Cluster Feeding is NORMAL
Cluster feeding is totally normal during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and does not mean there is a problem with your supply. Cluster feeding means baby wants to nurse almost constantly. This can seem overwhelming, but just put them to the breast, turn on some Netflix and relax. No amount of breastfeeding is too much in those first precious weeks.
Night 2 Party Night
Our maternity ward nurses warned us about “Party Night”, the second night after baby has been born. After an initial 24 hours of lots of sleep, baby gets down to business. He or she will want to nurse a ton.
This is actually a really good sign. It means baby is sending signals to your body to crank up that milk production!
Don’t worry about baby not getting enough milk, and definitely don’t give them formula. This is baby’s way of telling your body to turn into a milk making machine. You might not get much rest, but your body will start gearing up.
Days 3-4 Fussiness
The third and fourth day of baby’s life can be a time when they are quite fussy. No one knows exactly why, but some believe it is baby’s reaction to their new environment (goodbye peaceful womb, hello big, noisy world).
Your baby will probably want to nurse a lot, not only for nourishment, but also because nursing is the place where they feel most content. Again, don’t stress that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. Just keep feeding. Your milk is on its way!
You’re probably expecting your baby to start growing the minute they enter the world, but actually all breastfed babies lose weight for about the first week of life. Again, this is a perfectly normal and natural phenomenon and nothing to worry about. Your baby will begin to gain again shortly after your milk comes in. Babies regain their birthweight about 10 days to two weeks after birth (obviously this varies between babies).
What’s Not Normal
Keep a close eye on the amount of wet diapers your little one is having in the first few weeks of birth. You may have heard 8-12 wet diapers a day is the norm, but this isn’t true for the first week or so after birth.
Your baby should be having one wet diaper for every day of his/her life until they’ve reached 8-12 wet diapers a day. So that means one wet diaper the first day, two on the second day and so on. If your baby is having adequate wet diapers, it’s a great sign that nursing is going well, even if your milk hasn’t come in yet.
Babies should be weighed often in the first few weeks after birth. Don’t try to do this at home. You should see a medical professional or lactation consultant at a breastfeeding clinic, hospital or pediatrician’s office, etc. They will use a very sensitive scale to track small changes in your baby’s weight and will keep close track of weight loss/gain. They will plot your baby’s weight on a weight gain curve, which will tell them if your baby is in a normal range of weight loss/weight gain.
If you think something is off, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your care provider, or a lactation consultant (or both). While the vast majority of moms will have their milk come in normally, there are some health problems or factors in your delivery that can delay you milk coming in.
However, you absolutely CAN breastfeed successfully, even with a slow start. Work with a lactation consultant and you’ll be on the right track in no time!
Simple Steps to Make Your Milk Come in Faster
So, you’re waiting to learn how your can make your milk come in quicker. Well here you go.
Supply and Demand
The ONLY real way to make your milk come in faster is supply and demand. Basically, your body will increase its supply (milk supply) when your baby creates demand (by nursing). More nursing = more demand which will result in more supply. Your baby is asking your body to produce more milk and your body will respond.
If you alter the supply demand relationship by supplementing with formula, you are putting less demand on your body, so it will produce less. You might worry that baby’s not getting enough the first few days and be tempted to give formula, but don’t (unless reccomended by a medical professional). Keep putting baby to the breast and your body will fill the demand.
Promote Breastfeeding in the First Hour
One important way to promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship is to have lots of skin-to-skin contact and initiate breastfeeding in the first hour after birth. Not only is this best for baby for a number of reasons, it also starts the breastfeeding process ASAP after birth. Both your and your baby’s bodies are primed to start the breastfeeding relationship directly after birth.
Don’t worry if you had complications that prevented you from breastfeeding in the first hour. Although it makes a good start, you and your baby will have lots of time to catch up!
Another important step you can take to ensure your milk comes in is to room in with your baby. This might seem like an unrelated action, but it actually makes perfect sense. It’s hard to nurse on demand if baby if the baby is somewhere else.
Although you might choose to use a pacifier later on, try to delay giving it to baby for a week or two. Your baby has a natural desire to suck. You want to avoid having the baby fulfilling that need by sucking on a pacifier, instead of at the breast. More suckling on the breast = milk coming in faster.
Nurse on Demand
Let your baby create the demand by nursing on whenever they want. Put your baby to the breast anytime they want during those first few days (and weeks, even after your milk has come in).
Don’t worry about nursing too much (there’s no such thing), and be sure baby is not going more than 2-3 hours without a feeding (and maybe one four hour stretch at night). Just feed when the baby wants to feed. You can offer the breast anytime baby gets fussy or exhibits hunger cues like licking lips, smacking, sucking on fists or nuzzling toward you.
You may feel like you are nursing CONSTANTLY. That’s because many babies want to nurse pretty much anytime they’re awake. It takes a while to adjust to this strange “newborn time” phenomenon where is feels like the days take forever and yet go by so fast. You will be nursing for most of your baby’s waking hours and that’s not only ok, but it’s a good thing for your milk supply!
I will say not all babies are like this. My second daughter was a quick nurser right from the beginning. She gained weight quickly, had great diaper output and no problems at all. My milk actually came in a day or two faster than with my first . Don’t panic if your baby isn’t nursing around the clock, but do keep a close watch on weight gain and diaper output.
Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship. This means your baby is in just a diaper, and you’re topless (or wearing an open button-down shirt or robe). You can throw a blanket over top of you if you’re chilly.
What if the Baby Sleeps Through Feeds?
Newborns should be feeding every 2-3 hours. Don’t forget that this means 2-3 hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next (so if the feed takes 40 minutes, you’ll need to start the next feeding 1 hour 20 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes later).
If your baby is sleeping through feeds (maybe you’ve had a medicated birth or maybe just a very sleepy baby!), you’ll need to wake him/her for the first little while. through the day. The general recommendation is that you shouldn’t let your baby go more than three hours without a feed. At night, one stretch of four hours is ok. Of course, you should check with your care provider about your individual situation.
Waking a sleeping baby might sound crazy, but don’t worry. You won’t have to do it for long. Most doctors will tell you you can let baby sleep (if they will sleep) after they’re back up to their birth weight.
Sometimes you may be concerned that your baby is not having full feeds and may not be creating the demand that will bring your milk in.
There are main two possibilities for this: an incorrect latch and using a nipple shield.
If your baby is not latching correctly, they may not be draining your breasts when they feed. You should see a lactation consultant for guidance to correct the latch.
In some cases, this can be due to a tongue tie, which can be identified and corrected by a medical professional.
Other times, baby’s teeny mouth may just not have a good latch and this can be corrected with some help from the lactation consultant.
If you are using a nipple shield, your baby may not be totally clearing your breasts of milk, meaning there’s no signal to your body that it needs to make more milk.
In either case, pumping at the end of a breastfeeding session will help clear your breasts of milk, prompting them to make more, thus increasing your supply.
Drink a lot of Water
Breastfeeding requires a lot of water. You’re also losing a lot of fluid after birth. Keep a water bottle handy and drink up!
Don’t Worry About Breastfeeding Supplements Yet
You may have heard of supplements and foods that can increase your milk supply, such as blessed thistle, fenugreek, oatmeal and brewer’s yeast. You might feel that you need these supplements to bring your milk in.
While these supplements can be very helpful in slightly increasing milk supply in mothers who are having trouble producing, they aren’t needed to make most mother’s milk come in. A baby creating demand at the breast is the best way to make your milk come in. Give your body some time to do what it needs to do before turning to supplements.
If you are concerned about your milk not coming, don’t be afraid to seek help. Particularly if your baby is not having many wet diapers or if it has been more than five days. Your mommy instincts know best.
Sometimes it’s nice simply to have a check-in and feel confident that you’re on the right path and that is ABSOLUTELY ok. Don’t feel silly AT ALL. You are your baby’s advocate and there is nothing wrong with double checking that everything is fine.
Hang in there mamas, the first few weeks of breastfeeding are a roller coaster ride. Breastfeeding will become second nature and feel totally natural, but the learning curve is no joke. You WILL make it through and come out the other side. Just get through one feed at a time and before you know it, you’ll be a pro!
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