When Your Milk Comes In

Your mature breast milk will come in (or replace colostrum in your breasts) about 2 to 4 days after you give birth. To help the process along, make sure your baby is nursing often in the first few days. (Newborns need to nurse at least 8 to 12 times a day.)

You’ll know that your milk has come in when:

  • Your breasts get bigger.
  • You can hear your baby swallowing after seeing 2 or 3 nursing motions of her jaw. The swallows will sound a little like “gah … gah.”
  • Your breasts slightly decrease in size as the baby feeds.
  • You feel some cramping in your uterus and/or a pins-and-needles sensation of milk releasing; this is called a letdown reflex, though not all moms feel it.
  • You see white or pale yellowish milk, rather than golden yellow colostrum.
  • You leak (or even spray) from your nipples. 

Call your healthcare provider or lactation consultant if:

  • Your milk doesn’t seem to have come in by the 4th day postpartum.
  • Your baby is producing less than 6 to 8 wet diapers and several soft, mustard-colored stools each day.

Nurse your baby frequently—every 1 to 3 hours—to establish your milk supply and give your baby the nourishment he needs.

Engorgement, when breasts become very tight and full, is pretty common—and pretty uncomfortable, especially in the early days of feeding. If your breasts become so full of milk that it becomes difficult to latch your baby on, try pumping or hand-expressing just to release the pressure. Massaging your breasts, using heat packs or simply letting water in the shower fall onto them can also help relieve the pain. Don’t let your breasts stay engorged for long. That could lead to a plugged or clogged duct.

See also ...

•  Mastitis

•  How your body makes milk

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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