Your breastmilk supply will rapidly increase within days of your baby being born.
You may hear this change called your milk “coming in”.
It usually happens between days 2 and 5. If you have given birth before, you may notice it happen sooner than last time.
As the volume increases, your colostrum is replaced by mature breastmilk, which is thin and bluish-white in appearance.
What happens to breasts?
You may notice that your breasts swell and become fuller and heavier. This is a sign that the tissue in your breasts is filling with milk, blood and other fluids to kick-start your milk production.
For some women, this change is quite sudden – they wake up with larger breasts and may leak milk. For others it is more gradual. This change happens as a result of hormones in your body. It happens whether your baby is feeding from your breasts or not.
However, if you breastfeed early and often, your breasts will quickly begin to make more milk and you will build a strong supply. Your baby will lose less weight and be less likely to be jaundiced. It will also help you to meet your baby's needs as they begin to drink larger amounts.
My breasts are too full!
Some mums find their breasts are more than just full during this time - they are hard, swollen and tender. Their baby has difficulty attaching to the breast and their nipples can get damaged as a result. The milk does not flow well. This is known as engorgement, and there are things you can do to help.
Why isn't my milk supply increasing yet?
Some things might cause it to be delayed:
Being a first-time mum
An exhausting or traumatic birth
Being separated from your baby after birth
Pain medications used during birth, including having a caesarean birth
Retained placenta or placental fragments (these will need to be removed).
Your health (if you have a condition affecting your hormone levels)
Being very overweight.
What can I do?
Hold your baby skin-to-skin as much as possible.
Let your baby feed frequently, waking them if necessary.
Get help with feeding so your baby's attachment is good and they can milk your breast effectively.
If you have any concerns, seek help from an ABA breastfeeding counsellor, your midwife or a lactation consultant.
If your breasts are slow to get going, be reassured that many mums have been able to establish a milk supply even after a few weeks.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2023