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No breast milk after delivery: what to do?

The moment in which the mother’s body begins to replace the rich colostrum with mature breast milk is commonly described as ‘milk coming in’. Thereafter, the mother’s breast milk supply, which is fairly low in the beginning, increases continuously. Depending on how long it takes for the milk to come in, the newborn might have to be fed additional formula (at least temporarily).

What causes delayed milk production? How late can breast milk come in? What to do when there is no breast milk after delivery? Read on as we answer all your questions.

What counts as delayed milk production?

Lactation takes place in two stages. The first stage already starts during pregnancy when the rich, golden-yellow colostrum is produced. The second stage is when the mother’s body starts making mature milk, which is thinner than the nutrient-rich colostrum, but higher in volume.

The second stage of lactation sets in with breastfeeding. Many women report that their breasts feel uncomfortably full and tense during this time. The coming in of the milk often goes hand in hand with early breast engorgement, which can last for several days.

A mother’s milk typically comes in between 30 and 48 hours after the birth. Thereafter, the volume of breast milk increases quite quickly until it matches the baby’s actual feeding needs. But how late can milk come in?

It’s hard to say by what time breast milk should have come in by the latest because there are many factors that can influence the onset of lactation. In most cases, mature milk comes in within three to four days after birth. In some cases, however, it can take up to five days. If the breast milk comes in later than three days after the birth, milk production is considered to be delayed.

Baby liegt bei der Mutter an der Brust

No breast milk after delivery: what to do when breastfeeding?

Many new mums start to worry when there is no breast milk after delivery. As the days pass and there still is only colostrum coming out of the breast, the fear quickly settles in that the baby may not get enough nutrients and energy. This fear is usually unwarranted because colostrum is so high in nutrients and energy that even very small amounts are sufficient to provide newborns with everything they need.

However, delayed milk production can lead to other breastfeeding problems. The later the milk comes in, the longer it takes for the body to adjust the milk supply to the baby’s needs. Depending on how late milk comes in, the baby may have to be fed formula on top of breastfeeding until the breast milk volume reaches a sufficient level.

Other breastfeeding problems that can arise in this context include:

  • Problems when switching from bottle-feeding to exclusive breastfeeding (e. g. breastfeeding strike)
  • Nipple confusion, which can lead to sore nipples
  • Negative repercussions on the mother’s confidence in her ability to nourish her baby
  • Early weaning due to low milk supply

Reasons for no breast milk after delivery

There can be various reasons why there is no breast milk after delivery. These reasons can include:

  • Delayed first breastfeeding session: Ideally, the first breastfeeding should take place immediately after birth. The longer the first breastfeeding session is delayed, the higher the risk of milk coming in late.
  • Bad breastfeeding management: Frequent breastfeeding is crucial for getting your milk production going. If the baby is not put to the breast often enough in the first few days after birth, this can adversely affect the mother’s milk supply.
  • Delayed milk production due to C-section: Breastfeeding after a C-section is more difficult than after a normal vaginal birth. This is partly due to the fact that there often is no breast milk after delivery in the beginning.
  • Premature birth: A premature birth can also make the mother’s milk come in later. Depending on how premature the baby is, the mother’s body simply isn’t fully prepared for lactation yet.
  • Long and strenuous labour: A particularly difficult birth can also delay the onset of lactation. High blood loss and excessive exertion can increase the time needed by the body to recover enough to start making milk.
  • Pre-existing health conditions of the mother: Certain illnesses can also delay the beginning of milk production. They include obesity and diabetes, for instance. Breastfeeding with breast cancer can also impact milk production.
  • Stress and lack of sleep: Too little sleep or excessive stress can disturb the release of oxytocin in the mother’s body which can prevent the let-down reflex from working properly.
  • Retained placental fragments: The delivery of the placenta allows lactation to begin fully. If placental fragments remain in the uterus after birth, this can delay milk production until the retained placenta is removed.
  • Smoking: New mothers who smoke are also more likely to have no breast milk after delivery.
Eine Mutter stillt ihr Baby nachdem der Milcheinschuss eingetreten ist.

No breast milk after delivery: what to do to make milk come in?

It can happen that there is no breast milk after delivery. But what to do in these cases? 

Here are a few tips that can help with delayed milk production:

  • Healthy diet: Eating a healthy and balanced breastfeeding diet ensures that the body gets all the nutrients and energy it needs to make milk. Drinking plenty of fluids is also important.
  • Good breastfeeding management: Good breastfeeding management means breastfeeding your baby often, early and effectively, the latter meaning that the breast gets emptied completely. If your baby doesn’t empty your breast properly, you can express the remaining breast milk by hand or with the help of a breast pump. Choosing the right breastfeeding position is also important.
  • Breastfeeding tea: Breastfeeding teas contain a combination of different herbs and natural ingredients that are said to have a milk-forming effect, like fenugreek and lemon verbena. Lemon verbena and fenugreek are also part of the herbal mix in our Livella organic breastfeeding tea.
  • Sufficient rest and sleep: Lack of sleep and excessive exhaustion are possible causes of delayed milk production. That’s why new mothers should make sure to get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Checking your baby’s sucking technique: To prevent delayed milk production, it’s not only important to start breastfeeding early but also to ensure that the baby empties the breast properly. In cases where there is no breast milk after delivery, the baby’s sucking technique should be checked. A weak suck caused by tongue-tie or other anatomical particularities can prevent proper draining of the breast. This, in turn, can reduce milk production.
  • Alternative feeding methods: If additional feeding is necessary, the formula milk should be fed using alternative feeding methods. Instead of using a bottle, formula can be given to the baby with a spoon or cup.

Delayed milk production: getting tips from other mums

As with many other problems and challenges related to breastfeeding, talking to other mums can be really helpful. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved. Of course, new mothers can also confide in friends and family, but addressing the subject with other mums who know the situation firsthand is often more helpful.

Openly discussing the problem of delayed milk production with other mothers can have an incredibly positive effect. First, it helps to see that other mums have experienced the same problem. Second, other breastfeeding mums can provide moral support in a way nobody else can. Third, they can give valuable tips on how to deal with the situation.

In addition to talking to other breastfeeding mums, women experiencing delayed milk production should receive professional support from a midwife or lactation consultant. Having the right support right from the start significantly increases the mother’s chances of being able to fully breastfeed her baby despite the initial difficulties.

No breast milk after delivery: what to do?

Delayed milk production doesn’t have to be a cause for concern. If the milk comes in only a little late, there is still a good chance that exclusive breastfeeding is possible as soon as lactation fully kicks in. However, this doesn’t happen by itself. Good breastfeeding management with frequent feeding and proper emptying of the breast is vital in this context.

If there is no breast milk after delivery for an extended period of time, it’s a different story. The longer it takes for the milk to come in, the lower the mother’s chances of being able to fully breastfeed her baby. Women who wish to breastfeed their baby should know that partial breastfeeding might be the only option if the onset of lactation is delayed for too long.

In any case, it is advisable to seek help from a midwife or lactation consultant right from the start. Lactation consultants and midwives can give valuable tips on how to promote milk production and increase milk supply.

No breast milk after delivery: what to do?

2023-11-01 12:00:00
No breast milk after delivery: what to do? - No breast milk after delivery: what to do?

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