Did you know your breasts were preparing to feed your baby even before the baby was born?
Throughout your pregnancy and breastfeeding journey, your milk slowly changes as your baby grows.
This article explains the different stages of breastfeeding and what you can expect at each stage.
What are the 3 stages of lactation?
When we talk about the 3 stages of lactation, we refer to Lactogenesis I, Lactogenesis II and Lactogenesis III.
Stage 1 – Colostrum
Lactogenesis I begins in the second half of pregnancy and lasts until about 36 hours after your baby is born. During this stage, breast milk is present in the breast. This milk is called colostrum and is sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Colostrum – 5 Important Ways It Helps Your Baby.
Some women might leak a small amount of breast milk while they are pregnant, or be able to squeeze milk out by hand expressing. Milk expression during the final weeks of pregnancy is sometimes recommended to avoid the need to use artificial milk (i.e. infant formula) after a baby is born.
You can read more about this in Expressing Colostrum During Pregnancy.
The high level of progesterone supplied by the placenta during pregnancy inhibits the body from producing large amounts of breast milk. One your baby has been born and the placenta has been delivered, the level of progesterone drops abruptly and this initiates the second stage of lactation.
Stage 2 – Transitional milk
Lactogenesis II begins about 36-96 hours after the placenta has been delivered. This is when the colostrum that was present in your breasts during pregnancy and immediately after the birth of your baby turns into transitional milk. Transitional milk is higher in volume than colostrum but is still highly concentrated. Your baby’s frequent nursing in the first few days after birth further stimulates the milk making hormones in your body, and the transitional milk further increases in volume, to meet your baby’s needs.
Stage 3 – Mature milk
From around 10 days after giving birth, your breast milk changes to mature milk. This is when Lactogenesis III begins. Mature milk is supplied in larger amounts than colostrum and transitional milk; it is lower in calories but has a higher protein content. This third stage lasts until weaning.
The stages of Breastfeeding
During pregnancy and in the first stage of breastfeeding when your baby is born, your breasts will produce colostrum.
Colostrum contains all the nutrients and calories a newborn baby needs for the first few days after birth. Your baby will breastfeed very frequently in the first few days.
Some mother might worry their babies are not getting enough milk during this stage. You can rest assured that the higher levels of fat, calories and nutrients in colostrum make up for the lower volume, compared with mature milk. This is just as Mother Nature intended, as newborn babies have tiny tummies and breast milk is very easily digested.
There is no need to use a breast pump to express breast milk at this stage. Your baby’s sucking, combined with your changing hormones, triggers the onset of mature milk. You might have heard this referred to as your milk ‘coming in’. By around day 3, your breast milk starts to change; the thick, sticky and yellow coloured liquid becomes more creamy in appearance and there is an abundant amount of milk.
As your milk changes, so will your baby’s nappies. After day 5, your baby should be having at least 5 heavily wet nappies every 24 hours. This is an indication your baby is getting enough milk.
Breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Once your baby is around 6 months of age, you can start to offer solid foods to the diet.
Breast milk will remain the most important part of a baby’s diet until 12 months of age.
How much milk can a woman produce in 24 hours?
Milk supply in nursing women varies, depending on a number of different factors.
Some of these factors are:
- The baby’s age
- The gestation the baby was born
- Whether there was a single or multiple birth
- Whether the baby is exclusively breastfed
- Maternal hormones
- Maternal genetic factors.
Full milk production is considered to be anywhere between 750 and 1050 ml every 24 hours. For mothers of multiples (i.e. twins or triplets), a full milk supply is 2,000 – 3,000ml per day.
Once a full milk supply is established, it is maintained on the principle of supply and demand. Put simply, this means that the more milk you remove from your breasts, the more milk you produce. This is how your milk supply continues to meet your baby’s needs as your baby grows.
The amount of milk each mother makes can vary, depending on how often she is nursing her baby and how efficiently her baby is removing milk while feeding.
Is breastfeeding for 3 months good enough?
The World Health Organisation recommends you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months. The majority of breastfeeding dyads (the mother and baby pairs) do not meet this recommendation.
The 3 month mark can be a challenging time for some breastfeeding mothers. Some worry about their milk supply, as babies might be nursing for shorter periods of time. Others might be wondering why their babies don’t yet sleep through the night and still wake for a feed.
Some mothers worry about their babies having too much fore milk and not enough hind milk, or worry that their breast milk has a fore milk and hind milk imbalance. The good news is, this is rarely something you need to be concerned about.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance | 5 Myths You Need To Know.
It’s also reassuring to know that it’s normal for babies (and toddlers) to wake at night. Night waking does not necessarily mean your baby is not getting enough milk.
You can find out more in BellyBelly’s article Baby Night Waking – Is It Normal For Babies To Wake At Night?
Many mothers are concerned their crying baby needs to be supplemented with extra milk. Babies do cry when they are hungry but there are also other reasons your baby might cry.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Baby Crying? 10 Reasons Why Babies Cry.
Often, concerns like these are alleviated with correct advice from appropriate health care providers. If you have any concerns about your baby’s breastfeeding, seek help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.Lactogenesis II