New mothers are usually wondering when their milk will “come in,” which is a valid concern. The great news? Your milk is always there! Breast milk merely begins to increase in volume with the growth and birth of your baby. It might seem strange that your breast milk “comes in” after giving birth, since the leaks that happen before giving birth are a thin, yellowish liquid called colostrum. Don’t underestimate that liquid gold! It’s the best thing for your new baby’s immune function; rich in antibodies to keep them healthy.
As for your breast milk supply, it does change over time and will give the physical feeling and appearance of “coming in.” More importantly, your breast milk’s nutritional makeup changes as your baby begins to grow, even day by day! This handy chart shows the changes of breast milk in the body.
The three stages of your breast milk and its nutritional makeup are fascinating to see, as your body’s knowledge of what your baby needs changes along with your baby’s growth.
- Colostrum: From before delivery to immediately after, your typical “breast milk” has not arrived. In its place is a yellowy (sometimes clear), thin substance that’s chock full of proteins, vitamins, and minerals that protect against harmful bacteria and viruses. Colostrum coats the inside of your baby’s intestines, protecting them against allergies and digestive upset. It also stimulates their first bowel movement and reduces the risk for jaundice. Interestingly, this liquid gold is what you’ll produce the least of. Your baby probably won’t need more than a few teaspoons during the first days. Regular suckling will help your body to produce the next stage of breast milk.
- Transitional milk: Next up on the three course meal of your baby’s first months is transitional milk. It often looks like milk mixed with orange juice, but tastes a lot better than it sounds for your baby! This is the first sign of your milk “coming in” for your body and contains lower levels of immunoglobulins and protein than colostrum, and is more filled with lactose, fat, and calories that baby needs.
- Mature milk: Your entree is up next for your baby, and this is the breast milk that you were probably expecting. Arriving between day ten and two weeks postpartum, mature milk is thin and white (sometimes even bluish). While it looks like watered-down skim milk, this breast milk is packed with the fat and nutrients that your growing baby will need.
As always, if you have any questions regarding your milk supply, contact a local lactation consultant near you. If you find your breasts leak during any stage of your breastfeeding journey, be sure to get your hands on some Nursing Pads to keep you dry and covered.