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Breast Milk: When Does the Production Begin?

Even though breastfeeding doesn’t begin until the baby is born, most women are already producing milk about halfway through the pregnancy. While this is common for many moms, do not be discouraged if this is not the case for you. There are several breastfeeding products that can help you with your production if you have trouble producing milk. Below is a timeline to help you better understand the process of milk production and what you may expect [interlink to article ‘Breastfeeding Timeline- the first year of expectations’].

Before You Give Birth

Many moms experience the discharge of colostrum as early as halfway through the pregnancy, about 18-20 weeks or midway into the second trimester. Your breasts may feel full or engorged but your milk won’t let down and there shouldn’t be a need to pump yet. If this doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that your milk production isn’t beginning inside your body and there is nothing to be worried about.

Day 1 After Birth

Within the first hour after birth it is most likely your breasts will express colostrum, a thick and yellowy substance that does not look at all like milk. You should still feed your baby the colostrum as it has important essential nutrients that will help your newborn baby build a healthy and strong immune system. The hospital will probably have breastfeeding resources such as a lactation specialist or doula or you could employ your own to help you learn how to get your baby to latch on [interlink to article ‘To Techniques to get your newborn to latch-on’] and ease any worries you have about producing milk in this early stage.

The First Few Days

Most moms notice increased production in the first 2-3 days but if this doesn’t happen to you, it’s nothing to be worried about. Approximately 25% of moms take longer than the first few days to start producing milk in full gear. You’ll notice some signs that production is increasing such as a tingling sensation, engorgement in the breasts or a full feeling in one or both breasts, or warmth when your breasts are full. The baby will also respond to this increased production with changes in the feeding habits as they become in sync with the mom’s body and they learn how to latch on and feed. The more you nurse or pump, the more likely it is that your production will increase.

The Next Few Weeks

This is the stage where the benefits of breastfeeding become more noticeable as do changes to your milk and increased production. The changes in production may be gradual but soon you will see the thick colostrum substance turn to a thinner milk as production increases. If at this stage, you’re still having problems with producing enough milk to feed your baby, turn to your breastfeeding resources to find out about any problems or what you can do to stimulate production. For some moms, getting used to the process takes time and you shouldn’t be worried if this happens to you as well.

Stay Committed!

If you have trouble with production even later on in your newborn’s development, don’t give up! Breastfeeding takes a lot of diligent commitment, effort, and energy and that’s not always easy, especially if you have other children to care for. Put a breastfeeding support system in place that includes friends and family in addition to your spouse or partner to help you with things around the house, caring for other children, and caring for your newborn while you take care of yourself and learn the new ways your body works. Your breastfeeding resources such as a lactation specialist or doula should be included in this support system as well so you always have an expert on hand to answer your questions and continually educate you about the ways your body is changing as milk production increases.