When Does Milk Come in After Birth? Here’s the Answer


When I had my first baby, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Since breastfeeding is a natural process, I assumed it would be easy. Boy, was I wrong! Little did I know, breastfeeding is a learned process and not something either you or the baby know from the start. Between issues with latching and researching things like, “When does milk come in?”, “Sore nipples remedies,” “Why is my baby losing weight?”, and so on, it was pretty stressful.

Many tears later (both on my part and that of the baby), we went to see a lactation consultant. She was a lifesaver! My baby had lost close to 10 percent of his birth weight, and I did not want to give him formula yet. I knew there had to be more I hadn’t tried, so making an appointment with a lactation consultant was the next step.

Having someone experienced who could answer questions such as, “when does the milk come in,” or “how do I know if my baby is getting enough milk,” helped calm my fears. She showed me breastfeeding techniques and positions to try and helped with the latching issues I was having. She also pointed me to useful resources for more information.

As a first-time mom, I had many questions about breastfeeding and making sure my baby was getting enough breastmilk. If you’re having issues with breastfeeding, I’d highly recommend making an appointment with a local lactation consultant.

In the meantime, below are answers to common questions you may have about breastfeeding and milk supply.

When Does Milk Come in After Birth?

Mother smelling her newborn baby

Even though your breasts will not be producing breastmilk for the first few days, they will be making a substance called colostrum. Also referred to as “liquid gold,” this yellowish fluid is highly dense in nutrients and antibodies. It's all the food your infant will need in the first few days of life.

So, honestly, as long as you're producing colostrum, you don't have to ask when does the milk come in after all. It'll be on its way in about three to four days after giving birth to your baby. Feed your baby frequently in the first few days of life to help get your milk to come in faster. Milk production is a supply-and-demand process. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body produces.

After countless hours of worrying and research, everything turned out fine. It took four days for the colostrum to turn into breast milk with my first baby. It was the longest four days of my life as we were struggling with latch issues and losing weight. However, once we got the breastfeeding latch down, my breast milk came in, and everyone was happier.

When Does The Milk Come In After A C-Section?

Try to breastfeed your baby as soon as possible right after birth. With a C-section, this can be trickier since you will probably still be feeling the effects of the epidural. You’ll likely need to feed the baby while lying down. Make sure to ask for help from the nurses in getting baby in position.

If you’re wondering when does the milk come in after a C-section, don’t be discouraged by a slow start; your milk may come in anywhere from day two to day six after giving birth. What signals for your milk to come in is the abrupt hormonal shift that occurs when the placenta separates from your uterus. Your baby will get all the nutrition needed from colostrum in the first few days so try not to worry.

When Does The Milk Come In After A Vaginal Delivery?

If you have a vaginal delivery, you can expect your milk to come in three to four days. However, sometimes it can take a little longer. If you’re worried about getting in your milk, make an appointment with a lactation consultant or talk to a doctor.

One way to speed up the process is to nurse your baby frequently. Try to breastfeed your baby within one to two hours after birth. If you’re unable to feed your baby within the first four to six hours after birth, you should begin pumping with a hospital-grade breast pump. Talk to your doctor or midwife ahead of time about nursing your baby in the recovery room.

When Can I Expect My Milk Supply to Increase?

Woman breastfeeding her baby

The first few days of breastfeeding can feel like an eternity as you and the baby are both getting the hang of it. We shed many tears as my new infant, and I stumbled through latching issues and lack of supply. I spent countless hours online researching the answer to those two most pressing questions: When does the milk come in and how to alleviate sore nipples. My advice to you is to try not to get discouraged and ask for help.

By day four or five, the colostrum in your breasts should start to give way to breast milk. If you’re pumping or hand expressing, you’ll notice the color changing from yellowish to white. For me, I knew the moment my milk came in – my breasts were very full, hard as a rock, and painful. Everyone has a different experience with their milk coming in so don’t worry if you have different symptoms.

How Does Milk Supply Work?

Pregnant woman slicing an apple to prepare for breastfeeding

Milk production is a supply-and-demand process, so you need to remove the milk from the breast to increase or maintain milk production. Emptying the breast signals to your body that it needs to make more milk; however, if you don’t drain the breast all the way, your body thinks it should produce less since you "need" less.

Within the first few days of life, babies drink an average of one ounce of colostrum or breast milk per feeding. In weeks 2 and 3, that amount increases to 2 to 3 ounces. By month one, your baby will be drinking between 3 to 4 ounces of milk per feeding, and continue at this pace through month 6.

As your baby gets older, it requires more milk, so it drinks more during feedings. If a baby is latching well and nursing well, you’ll see your milk supply increase steadily. If you suspect your baby is not getting enough milk, make an appointment with a lactation consultant. This way, you can make sure everything is going well, and there are no issues with latching.

What Can I Do To Increase My Supply?

Healthy vegetables, meat, and fruits for breastfeeding

If you’ve gone from worrying about, "When does the milk come in?" to, "What can I do to increase milk supply?", you’re not alone. All moms worry about their milk supply at some point. While you may be concerned about low milk supply, if your baby is having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers, you probably don’t have a reason to be worried.

It’s pretty reasonable for babies to nurse frequently, especially in the early days when they’re growing and developing so quickly. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, you may notice an increase in the frequency and/or length of nursing. This will help increase your milk supply since the frequent removal of milk from your breast signals to your body that it needs to make more milk.

Besides, breast milk digests pretty quickly, so it’s normal for breastfed babies to eat more often than formula-fed babies. Babies have a strong need to suck and often need contact with mom to feel secure. All of these things are normal, and you shouldn't take it as an indication of a drop in milk supply.

What If My Baby Is Fussy?

If your baby is fussy or nurses more often, don’t panic. Many babies have a fussy time of day, usually in the evenings. When your baby is fussy, he or she may want to nurse more often. This does not mean that you’re not making enough milk.

In the early days of nursing, your breasts will likely feel harder, and you may feel a let-down sensation every time you feed your baby. If you no longer feel either of those things, it doesn’t mean that you’re not making enough milk. Once your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs, your breasts will go back to feeling the way they did before your milk came in. The let-down sensation may lessen over time and has nothing to do with your actual milk supply.

How Do I Know If My Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?

Baby breastfeeding on her mother

My son lost 10 percent of his birth weight within the first 4 days after birth, so I went from obsessing over "When does the milk come in?" to "How do I know if he's getting enough milk?" If your baby is losing weight the first few days after birth, know that it’s completely normal. A 5 to 7 percent weight loss during the first 3 to 4 days after birth is pretty coming. Your infant should regain birth weight by day 10 to 14.

By day four, your baby should be producing about six wet diapers per day. If you’re not sure what that feels like, you can pour three tablespoons of water into a clean diaper. Additionally, your baby should produce three to four dirty diapers a day. Breastfeeding babies produce a stool that is usually yellow and loose. That doesn't mean they have diarrhea; it just means they're processing milk and have goop for poop.

Another good way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is to watch during each breastfeeding session. When your baby first latches on the breast, he will suck rapidly to help trigger the let-down. The sucking should progress into deep, slow pulling motion as he swallows. If you look closely at the throat, you should notice the baby swallowing. Babies that are not getting enough milk tend to suck rapidly and don’t swallow slowly and rhythmically.

Risk Factors for Not Getting Your Milk in "on Time"

Little feet of a baby

If your milk does not transition from colostrum to breastmilk within the first three to four days after giving birth it is known as delayed onset of lactation. Studies have shown that several potential risk factors can cause this.

Labor & Delivery Factors

If you received a large amount of fluids or any pain medication during labor, this could potentially affect when your milk comes in. Other factors include, a C-section delivery, a stressful, exhausting or traumatic birth, blood loss or retained placenta, or a long pushing stage. If there is retained placenta, the milk will typically come in generally once the doctors remove the placental fragments.

Mom’s Health

Carrot smoothie for breastfeeding

If you have any issues that can affect your hormones, this could also affect your milk supply. That can include hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes, hypertension, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, among others. Consult with your doctor if you suspect there may be a hormonal reason why you're still asking, "When does the milk come in?" long after you should be producing already.

Pre-Term Birth

If your baby was born before 37 weeks of gestation, this could affect the onset of breast milk. A pre-term birth may cut short the breast growth of late pregnancy, resulting in less milk-producing tissue after birth. With good breastfeeding management, breast growth should continue after birth. Consult with your doctor on what steps you can take to ensure optimal milk supply.

What Should I Do If My Milk Does Not Come in on Time?

Healthy vegetable for breastfeeding

One of the first steps you should take if you're left asking the dreaded question, "When does the milk come in?" is to talk to your doctor. You'll want to discuss potential issues that could cause delayed onset of lactation. Additionally, schedule a visit with a local board-certified lactation consultant. She can help you make a plan to increase your milk production and monitor baby’s progress.

Also, remember that breast milk production is supply and demand. You need to empty your breasts fully and frequently to signal to your body that it needs to make more milk. Nurse your baby often and thoroughly. Skin-to-skin contact has also been shown to increase milk supply so indulge in baby cuddles in between sessions.

You can also pump after several breastfeeding sessions using an electric breast pump. Even if you don’t get much out, this will signal to your body that it needs to make more milk. As a bonus, any milk that you express can be frozen and used later to feed your baby while you are separated for any reason, of for someone else to take a turn feeding them with.

If you’re struggling with a slow start, remember that you’re not alone. Many new moms have a difficult time when they start breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding is a learned process and takes lots of practice. If you continue to signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk, you should be able to bring in full milk supply after a week or two.


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