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When Everything Goes Wrong in the First Few Days…

Why your milk will still come in* and you can still breastfeed successfully

*Results not guaranteed, sorry. But seriously, it’s very likely that things will be fine. Read this and get help if you need it.

Hospital baby nursery

Your body has been preparing to make milk since about midway through your pregnancy. The glandular tissue in your breasts has flourished, your breasts are bigger, and you’ve probably noticed other things like increased veining, sensitive nipples, leaking colostrum (or crusty stuff on your nipples, which is dried colostrum), and/or darkening areolas. You’re not only building a human—you’re building their life support system!

When your baby is born and the placenta detaches, that sends the signal to your breasts to get ready to start making milk. Basically, it’s like the placenta “pulls the trigger,” and then milk shoots out (about 2-3 days later). Your breasts get full, and at that point, it’s on you and your baby to make sure milk production continues and rises to meet your baby’s needs.

Even if you did nothing  to help your milk come in, your body is working on it all by itself. You didn’t need to do anything special to make yourself start producing colostrum, or go into labor, right? Your milk coming in is just part of the whole reproductive cycle. (If you do no breastfeeding, however, your milk may be delayed  in coming in.)

Consider this wackiness: In many places of the world, colostrum is considered bad for the babybreastfeeding is often delayed a day (or three)other foods like butter or honey are given in the meantime—and yet the milk still comes in and babies are typically breastfed for over a year or two. 

Clearly doing everything “perfectly” (according to Western medical standards) is not usually necessary for breastfeeding to work out well!

Now I’m not saying any of the above is ideal (or even safe)—it’s still best  to breastfeed early and often, and even add hand expression or pumping if you have risk factors for delayed onset of milk production, low supply, or you are separated from your baby. Research shows that your milk will probably come in sooner and in greater quantity if you do those things. 

What I am saying is that whatever happens in those first few days, breastfeeding will likely be fine.

Your lactation hormones are on the job, even if you can’t feel or see anything yet. Make sure you understand the basic principle of milk production, which is that emptier breasts make milk faster; fuller breasts make milk more slowly. (If that weren’t true, your breasts would explode, right?) So when you feel your milk coming in…take it out  in order to make more. 

Then just snuggle your baby, rest, and keep learning to breastfeed, in whatever way works best for your family 💜