Are you a new mom anxiously waiting for your breast milk to come in? Are you worried that you aren’t making enough breast milk in the first few days that meet your baby’s needs? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Every new mom experiences it differently, but here are eight tips that can help speed things up and set you on the path to healthy breast milk production.
“My milk hasn’t come in yet, help!”
This is a very common concern among new moms soon after a baby is born. It can feel alarming if your baby was just born and you aren’t sure if you are making enough milk – or any at all.
You may not even know what it completely means to have your “milk come in.”
In this post, I’ll be sharing what it means, if you have milk before this, and tips for helping the process along.
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I always recommend working closely with your healthcare provider during those first few days to ensure your baby is thriving. Finding a lactation-knowledgeable provider is a great way to make sure you get the medical advice you need.
What does it mean for your “milk to come in”?
Before I dive into the ways to help your milk come in, I think it’s important to discuss what this even means.
Something that is important to understand is the process of milk production. After your baby is born and the placenta is delivered, this tells your body to start making milk. Colostrum production is kicked up a notch, and you will start to produce more colostrum.
It’s a hormonal process – and for the first few days after you give birth, your milk production is under endocrine control. It is not based on supply and demand yet, so even if you don’t put your baby to the breast or even plan to nurse, you will likely produce some milk.
So even if you do nothing (barring any complications, which I’ll discuss later), your milk will likely increase in quantities within the first few day after giving birth. But many mothers want to know if there’s anything they can do to encourage their milk to “come in” more quickly.
When people refer to your “milk coming in”, they are referring to the process of your colostrum transitioning to your more mature milk – this is produced in higher volume.
You should also keep in mind that colostrum – which is the thick, yellowish milk that your body begins to produce during pregnancy – IS milk. It is generally available as soon as your baby is born. – this typically meets your baby’s needs during the first few days, despite most moms making a small amount. It is high in nutrients and antibodies – there is a reason it’s referred to as liquid gold. So it’s a false notion to be told you don’t have any milk for your baby for the first few days while you “wait” for your milk to come in.
When does milk come in?
This can vary from mom to mom, her birth experience, and various other circumstances.
In general,if it’s your first baby, it can often take longer for their milk to come in, and it is not uncommon for it to take 3-5 days.
With subsequent babies, it may come in more quickly. With my first child, my milk came in at about three days postpartum. With my second, it was 48 hours, and with my third, it was 24 hours. If you’ve breastfed before, your body has a memory of that, so
If you had birth trauma, a c-section, extreme blood loss, retained placenta, previous breast surgery, or low glandular tissue, this may also affect when your milk fully transitions.
More information on this topic: When Does Milk Come in? 8 Secrets for Establishing Milk Supply
Ways to Help Your Milk Come in Faster
Sometimes, time is the best thing you can count on. But there are ways to encourage your milk to come in. Even if these tips don’t always help with it, they all can help to encourage a strong milk supply in the future.
While this is very much a hormonal process, there are some factors that may play a part in how quickly your milk supply comes in. While none of these things will ensure your milk is going to come in more quickly, they can be helpful!
Skin to Skin
Put your baby to your chest as much as possible! Skin to skin contact is SO powerful, and, in my opinion, just about the best way to help your milk come in. It stimulates oxytocin and prolactin, which is important for breastfeeding. The more that you put your baby to your chest, the more they may initiate breatsfeeding or show an interest in nursing, which can also lead to an increase in supply.
I love these side snap onesies that make for easy skin to skin without completely undressing baby.
Offer the breast frequently
While your body is not under the supply and demand system, providing more stimulation to the breast and showing there is a baby there may lead to your body recognizing that there is a baby there who needs milk more quickly. Every time your baby nurses is beneficial for supporting a healthy milk supply. Try and focus on getting a good latch to ensure your baby is suckling in a way that stimulates the breast to signal that you need a great amount of milk produced.
Hand express after nursing
Hand expression after birth has a lot of benefits. After you’ve attempted to nurse your baby, try and hand express a little, too. This can provide you with a little bit of extra milk to spoon feed to a sleepy baby, too. Research shows that hand expression after nursing within the first hour of birth may increase your supply by six weeks postpartum.
Pump if you can’t nurse
If your baby isn’t able to nurse (or you aren’t planning to nurse from the breast), make sure you get a pump and start expressing regularly. The frequent stimulation of the breast is important and getting on a regular pumping schedule right away will help your milk supply come in properly. It is recommended to start pumping within six hours after giving birth if baby is not able to nurse or you are choosing to exclusively pump, according to Kelly Mom. While you can use any pump, an electric breast pump is typically most beneficial for helping your milk supply come in.
Hand expression can sometimes be more effective at removing colostrum in the early days, so don’t understand the power of doing that – especially if you are having trouble with pumping or a pump is not available.
Understand Baby’s Hunger Cues
Hunger cues can be tricky – but learning what they are early on can help you put your baby to the breast more frequently. Remember – crying is a late stage hunger cue.
Don’t let baby sleep too long
Newborn babies can be really sleepy, which can make it harder to put them to the breast frequently. This is one reason I recommend having them nap on your chest while doing skin to skin (as long as you are awake enough!), as it can help with that, too (along with helping with supply).
If your baby goes too long without at least attempting to nurse, it can cause a host of problems – including a delay in milk supply. I would not allow a brand new baby to go longer than three hours during the day and four hours at night.
If your baby is not staying awake, I recommend trying to latch them and tickling behind their ear to elicit the suckling reflux. You can also try and give them syringes of colostrum to help wake them up and give them a little more energy, too.
Hydration while breastfeeding is important. While there isn’t evidence that supports a ton of water resulting in a great milk supply, it is important to help YOU feel better. And when you feel better, it can help you be less stress and produce more milk.
Drinking enough water can also help your body get rid of extra fluids from delivery – excess fluid can cause engorgement and delay the onset of milk production.
Fuel Your Body
Again, this may not necessarily cause an increase in supply or cause it come in more quickly, but it’s important to take care of your body so you have the energy to do skin to skin, nurse your baby, etc. Focus on balanced diet with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to help you feel your best. Make sure you have a healthy snack on hand at all times!
Be sure to grab our free breastfeeding meal plan!
Compressions and Massage
Breast massage can be really beneficial for milk supply, and it can increase the flow to your baby (which increases their ability to suckle at the breast). It can also help to relieve engorgement. GENTLE massage is key!
Stress can inhibit the let-down reflex. The hours after giving birth can be a stressful time for various reasons. I would suggest limiting visitors (especially because it can be really stressful to try and get the hang of breastfeeding with tons of people in the room), listening to calming music, ask your spouse or partner for a shoulder massage, and maybe even diffuse breastfeeding safe essential oils.
Make sure you feel comfortable when nursing – if you are in pain, your back is hurting, or you feel uncomfortable in anyway, this may make you less likely to want to nurse as frequently. The stress of being uncomfortable may lead to an inhibited letdown.
Have Multiple Babies
Obviously, not something you’re really in control of – but moms who have had children previously typically see their milk supply come in more quickly.
How do I know if my milk has come in?
In my experience, I always get really emotional right before I notice the change to producing milk in higher volume. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but without a doubt with every child, I start to cry and get really emotional right before my “milk comes in”.
Here are a few other signs that your milk has come in or is about to come in:
- Breast fullness/engorgement – it should feel better once baby has nursed
- Change in baby’s eating pattern and behavior – feeds may change in the amount of time, they may react more to your let-down, or they may start cluster feeding to help your body know you need to make milk for them.
- Leaking milk
- Milk may start to appear whiter and thinner (it typcially has colostrum qualities for awhile after)
- Increase in wet and/or dirty diapers
- Baby starts to regain birth weight
The process can be gradual, but most moms do experience a noticeable difference when their milk transitions to the more mature milk. If you are noticing any of the above signs, there is a good chance your body is doing what we would expect.
What can prevent or delay my milk from coming in?
There are situations that might occur that can delay – and in some cases, even prevent – your milk supply from fully coming in. Some of these happen because of the birthing process and others may be due to an underlying health condition. This is why I always recommend booking a prenatal consult to discuss any issues that might prevent your milk supply from coming in.
Here are some of the common reasons mothers may have a delayed onset of lactation. Keep in mind that these factors don’t mean you’ll have issues – they are just more commonly linked to them and low milk supply.
- Birth trauma
- Extreme stress
- Insufficient glandular tissue
- Previous breast surgery
- Thyroid issues
- Prolonged separation of mom and baby – if you are not able to be together a lot, you can request kangaroo care if your baby is stable enough
- C-section birth – Here are some good resources for breastfeeding and c-sections ;
- 6 Helpful Tips For Breastfeeding After a C-Section
- 8 Breastfeeding Problems After a C-Section (And What You Can Do!)
- Best Breastfeeding Positions for C-Section Recovery
- Pain medications during/after birth
- Significant blood loss following birth
- Retained Placenta – this is the #1 issue I see when a mom doesn’t have her milk come in at all
- Excessive fluids at birth
- Pre-term birth
- Poorly controlled diabetes
When should I get help?
If day four has rolled around, and you are not seeing any signs that your milk supply is coming in, then I would reach out for you help.
Contact an International Board Certifeid Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or other breastfeeding professional that’s available to you to go over your birth experience, postpartum so far, and your overall medical history. While it’s not impossible that you won’t find an answer, working with a professional will help.
It’s important to also monitor your baby’s weight gain to make sure it hasn’t dropped below 10% of their birth weight and to monitor for any signs of dehydration, jaundice, or transfer issues.
The early weeks of breastfeeding can be stressful as you learn to breastfeed and understand your baby’s feeding cues. Understanding how breast milk production works is an important thing that can help you know if you are making plenty of milk. When did your milk come in? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
More Posts You Might Enjoy:
- 11 Low Milk Supply False Alarms
- Breastfeeding Your Newborn Baby: What All New Parents Should Know
- 9+ Essentials for Preparing for Breastfeeding Before Baby Arrives
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.