What Can Cause Delay in Breast Milk

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If you’re expecting a baby and planning to nurse, you may not know that breastfeeding in the first hours after birth doesn’t involve copious amounts of bottle-filling milk. Instead, you’ll produce smaller amounts of two other types of breast milk before your mature milk actually comes in. But the milk you produce in the first few days is still important to your baby.

There are several signs that your milk is beginning to come in (aka turn into mature milk), most notably an increase in size, heaviness, or general fullness of the breasts. Birthing and nursing parents will know when milk production is beginning often just by the sensations they experience. The changes in breast fullness can cause pressure and even pain for some moms, the breasts and nipples can feel warm and sensitive to the touch, and some women experience low-grade fever for 24 hours.

Additionally, you may notice that your milk is no longer coming out in drops but beginning to leak or even spray from the nipple when it’s time for a feeding and your breasts will feel heavy when they’re full and empty after you’ve fed your baby.

The milk volume usually begins to increase within the first 30 hours after birth. If you’ve experienced no increase by 72 hours postpartum, it’s considered a delayed onset of lactation (DOL).

There are several factors that can cause DOL, such as:

  • Cesarean delivery
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid issues

Preterm birth can also cause DOL because the hormonal signaling that the baby is born and needs to be fed can be skewed. Preterm infants are also less alert, more fatigued, have more trouble latching, and may need to be admitted to the NICU or separated from their parents after birth, which also contributes to difficulty in nursing.

Finally, retained placental fragments can cause a delay in lactation and the delivery of the placenta triggers the hormonal shift from estrogen to prolactin that stimulates milk production, so the milk supply changing from colostrum to transitional milk to mature milk can be delayed.

What To Do if Your Breast Milk Is Delayed

If your milk is delayed, don’t panic: there are some easy things you can try at home to get the process flowing. Do lots of skin-to-skin time with your baby and continue offering them your breast, which can stimulate production.

Continue removing milk, even if it seems like you’re still only making colostrum or transitional milk. By hand expressing milk may be more efficient than using an electric pump, but you can do either—the point is to keep sending the signals to your body that milk production is needed.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of water, which can come from beverages or food, like soups and broths. There is not a set amount of water that increases milk supply, but it is recommended that the lactating parent “drink to thirst,” aiming for at least 1 cup of water at each nursing session.

Get plenty of rest and sleep.

Check that your baby has a proper latch since incorrect latching can delay the stimulation of milk production. If you aren’t sure if your baby is latching correctly, schedule an appointment with a lactation specialist. A lactation specialist can also help build a strong base for your milk production and develop a plan for feeding your baby.

As you try these home remedies, you may also want to make an appointment with your provider. Your provider can rule out any concerns about retained placental fragments and make sure your baby is getting what they need to grow.

Also, try to remember that nursing can be difficult and may take some time to establish—it’s not always instantaneous. If you’re still struggling to nurse after getting help, know that you’re not alone or to blame. All that matters is that you’re feeling OK and your baby is getting enough to eat. Also, most babies are expected to lose a certain percentage of birth weight before gaining it back.

For more information, visit https://www.parents.com/