The majority of my postnatal clients are disappointed with the information they receive from doctors and midwives about breastfeeding. Often, the impression is that breastfeeding goes smoothly right from the beginning, which is not always the case.
For the first 2 to 5 days after your baby is born, you will produce a small amount of colostrum, which is all a healthy term baby needs. Colostrum is a thick, rich milk that is high in nutrients. Around day 3 through 5, your milk will come in.
However, some things can cause a delay in your milk coming in:
- Severe stress
- Cesarean (surgical) delivery
- Bleeding after birth
- Infection or illness with fever
- Thyroid conditions
- Strict or prolonged bed rest during pregnancy
Milk supply depends on demand. Feeding frequently, when your baby shows hunger cues, is an excellent way to build up a good supply. Your baby should latch on correctly to be able to compress the milk ducts in the breast and remove the appropriate amount of milk.
If you have a delay in your milk coming, don’t feel discouraged. You can continue to express milk with a breast pump or by hand and often breastfeed, even if you have to supplement with formula for a few days. Babies who are premature or jaundiced are especially likely to need formula temporarily. (I know that supplementing with formula in the first few days is controversial, so please speak to your doctor, midwife or a lactation consultant for advice.)
Please don’t be afraid to ask for help if your milk supply is ever a concern. The sooner you do, the better. You can contact your midwife who can recommend breastfeeding professionals to you.