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Understanding Breast Milk – Making Your Feeding More Effective.

Did you know that the type of breastmilk that you produce changes over the first two weeks of breastfeeding to end with the mature milk that will be produced until the end of your breastfeeding journey?


Colostrum (day 0 – 3 after birth)

Colostrum is the very first milk that you produce after birth. It is yellow and sticky you will see that you only produce a very little at a time. But it is also so much more than the first milk your baby consumes after birth. It's highly concentrated with nutrients and antibodies to fight infection and protect your baby. The flow of colostrum is also slow to help you and your baby to learn to breastfeed. Colostrum is known as liquid gold because it has so many benefits for your baby including, coating the gut to prevent harmful bacteria from being absorbed, acting as a laxative to get rid of the meconium and helps with preventing low blood sugar in the baby.

Creator: honglouwawa | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Transitional milk (from about day 2 – 5 up to about day 14 after birth)

Transitional milk comes when mature breast milk gradually replaces colostrum. This is when you start noticing your milk “come in”. The colour will be whiter or a pale-yellow white.

Creator: Teerat Ratrawetakorn | Credit: Teerat Ratrawetakorn // Shutterstock


Mature milk (from about 10 - 15 days after birth, onwards)

The amount of fat in mature milk changes as you feed your baby. Let your baby empty your first breast before switching to the other breast during a feeding. Compared to colostrum, mature milk has increased carbohydrates and fats but less protein.


Creator: Aliseenko | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Also, important to note is involutional milk (this is the milk produced when weaning)

Involutional milk, has a lower lactose concentration than mature milk but higher levels of fat, protein, and sodium. The most amazing thing about involutional breast milk is that it has more antibodies than mature milk.  It's incredible that a mother's body knows to give her baby an extra dose of goodness before reaching the end of their breastfeeding relationship.


How do I know if I have enough milk?


Many moms worry that their breast milk isn’t enough to full their baby and keep them growing well. This is especially important to note in the first few days. Remember colostrum has a slow flow for babies to be able to learn to breastfeed. On day one of baby’s life the baby’s stomach can only take about 5 – 7 mls of milk at a time (their stomach is about the size of a cherry). On day two their stomach capacity has increased to 22 – 27 mls. This means that they do not need hundreds of mls per feed. This also means that they will become hungry faster and might cluster feed initially due to their small stomachs. A baby’s stomach will only be at 80 – 100 mls capacity at about 1 month of life.


Although unlikely, here are a few signs that your baby may not be getting enough milk:

          Baby is lethargic or sleeping longer than usual

          Baby is not passing stools

          Baby’s urine is dark

          Baby isn’t gaining weight

          Baby doesn’t settle


Remember that all of these signs may also be an indication of another issue not related to breastfeeding.


Should I be breastfeeding on both breasts during a feed?


Unlike formula, the calorie content and composition of breast milk varies. Breast milk changes during each feed and throughout your breastfeeding period, to meet the needs of your baby.


At the beginning of a feed, the milk is more watery usually to quench the baby’s thirst (foremilk). The milk that comes later (hindmilk) is thicker, higher in fat and more nutritious.


Hindmilk may contain 2 to 3 times more fat than milk from the beginning of a feed, and more calories per ml. Therefore, to get to the most nutritious milk, it’s important that your baby empties one breast before you switch to the other.


If your baby is still hungry after emptying a breast, then continue on to the next breast. Always start your next feed with the breast that was not used or partially used during the last feed to avoid engorgement.



Remember that breast milk provides all the nutrients and hydration that your baby needs for the first 6 months of life and therefore no additional soft foods or water is necessary.

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