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Breastfeeding and Delayed Milk Production

For the first 2 to 5 days after your baby is born, you will make a small amount of colostrum. This is the early, thick, rich milk that is high in nutrients. Colostrum is all a healthy full-term baby needs. Around 3 to 5 days after birth, your milk will come in. But some things may delay your milk from coming in. These include:

  • Severe stress

  • Cesarean section (surgical) delivery

  • Bleeding after birth

  • Obesity

  • Infection or illness with fever

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid conditions

  • Strict or prolonged bed rest during pregnancy

Milk supply depends on demand, or milk removal from the breast. The best way to have a good supply is to feed frequently, when your baby shows hunger cues. You may have trouble with delayed or reduced milk production. If that is the case, first take a look at the number and length of your feedings. And make sure that your baby can put their mouth around your nipple to nurse (latch on). Also make sure that your baby can transfer milk from your breast.

If you have a delay in your milk coming in, don’t give up. Continue to express milk. That means removing milk from your breasts with a breast pump or by hand. And continue to breastfeed often. Do this even if you are supplementing with formula for a few days. Babies who are premature or jaundiced are even more likely to need formula for a short time.

Sometimes a mother's health condition may cause a problem. It may briefly delay the large increase in milk production that often occurs 3 to 5 days after birth. These women may not begin to produce large amounts of milk until 7 to 14 days after giving birth. If this happens to you, don’t give up.

Don’t wait to get help if milk supply is ever a concern. The sooner you get help, the better. Many communities have breastfeeding support groups that can be a good resource. Contact your healthcare provider if you are having problems breastfeeding. He or she may recommend a lactation consultant. This is a breastfeeding specialist.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Mary Terrell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
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