The Three Stages of Breast Milk and What You Need to Know
Not all breast milk is the same. Did you know that your milk changes over time?
Breast milk, AKA Liquid Gold, Nectar of the Gods, or the ever fun Boob Juice, is an important part of becoming a mother. Mother nature gives (most of us) everything we need to feed and nourish our babies. But just like pregnancy has trimesters, did you know that your breast milk has three stages as well?
Stage one is colostrum, stage two is transitional milk, and stage three is mature milk. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at each of these important stages.
Colostrum: Stage One
During your pregnancy, the earliest form of breast milk begins to develop. Colostrum is the shortest stage of your breast milk lasting only a few days after your baby is born. Colostrum is a thick, nutrient-dense milk, packed with important nutrition for your baby and is often either yellow or off white in color.
Colostrum is packed full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and antibodies. Your baby is not yet able to produce his or her own antibodies, so this phase or stage of milk is very important in the health of your infant. Breastfeeding during the first few days can be tricky, so don’t struggle alone. If offered by your hospital or birthing center, we highly recommend seeing a lactation specialist. These specialists help make sure your baby gets this vital nutrition, but also can help prepare you for the next two stages of breast milk.
Transitional Milk: Stage Two
Once the colostrum is expressed, your body will begin to make what is known as transitional milk. This stage begins about 3-6 days after your baby is born and lasts about two weeks. Where colostrum is packed with nutrients, transitional milk still provides your baby with vitamins but it also contains more calories than colostrum. Babies tend to lose a bit of weight in the first few days of their life. This transitional milk has more fat and sugar to help them gain this weight back.
Moms typically notice that their breasts begin to feel bigger or fuller during this time as the volume of milk their bodies make begins to increase. This phase is also known as the time when your milk is “coming in”. You might receive a few questions about this from your pediatrician, especially if your baby has lost a little bit of weight after birth. Read this story from BeauGen Content Manager Maggie for more information about her experience with transitional breast milk. If you aren’t sure if your transitional milk is coming in, if you are making enough or if your baby is getting enough milk, schedule a consultation with a lactation specialist.
During the transitional milk stage moms will want to establish a regular and frequent feeding or pumping routine to encourage their bodies to create enough milk to feed their baby. Not expressing enough milk may lead to supply problems now or during the mature milk phase.
Mature Milk: Stage Three
This is the final phase of breastfeeding. During this third or mature milk stage, breast milk consists of mostly water. In fact, it’s about 90% water to keep your baby hydrated. The remaining 10% is composed of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates your baby needs to grow.
Two Different Types of Breast Milk:
Foremilk: the milk your baby receives when they first begin nursing. This is full of water, vitamins, and protein.
Hindmilk: After the initial release of milk, hindmilk is expressed. This milk has a higher concentration of carbohydrates and fat.
Your baby needs a balance of both foremilk and hindmilk for healthy development.
Nutrition: What you eat and breastfeeding
While some old wive’s tales say that what you eat while you are pregnant will affect your baby's palette, it’s more likely that what you eat while you are breastfeeding will develop baby’s tastes for various foods. Some experts will tell moms that you can have a bit more caffeine now than when you could when pregnant. You may also begin taking other medications that might have been discouraged while pregnant. However, always consult your doctor for nutritional and medicinal questions and guidance.
Your doctor may also recommend that you continue taking your prenatal vitamins or consider taking supplements to help provide both you and your baby with the nutrients needed for wellness.
Drinking: What you drink and breastfeeding
Some moms will begin drinking alcohol again while breastfeeding. Moderation is recommended as it will affect your baby and even your milk supply. Some experts believe that alcohol will result in less sleep for babies and a decreased production in breast milk for mom. Yes, alcohol will make it into your breast milk and remain there for a time. It passes through your breast milk at the same rate it passes through your bloodstream. Most healthcare professionals suggest a 2 hour wait to pump or nurse after a typical drink.
Recent studies suggest that breastfeeding mothers are no longer required to “pump and dump.” Experts suggest that as long as mama is sober enough to safely hold your baby or to set up and operate your pump, then you’re safe to feed your little one. Again, please reach out to your health care provider if you have any questions about alcohol and the impact on breast milk.
Breastfeeding Really Is a Super Power
Breast milk really is amazing. It’s packed with all of the water, proteins, fats, and nutrition that your baby needs. Want to know the best part? You don’t even have to think about it, because your body produces the exact formulation your baby needs when he or she needs it.
Whether you exclusively or occasionally pump, check out our Clearly Comfy Cushions to have a comfortable, customized breast pumping experience.