Are you losing sleep wondering whether your milk has come in? If so, you’re not alone! One of the greatest concerns for any new mom who intends to breastfeed is whether she’s producing enough milk to feed a growing baby.

Fear not! It might seem like there’s not much milk yet, but your production will ramp up as your baby grows and gets better at feeding. Here’s what you can expect as your milk supply is established.

Believe it or not, you’ve been producing milk since before your baby was even born! Colostrum is the first milk your body makes. It develops in your breasts in mid-pregnancy (around 12–18 weeks) and is still produced in the first few days after birth.

A little colostrum goes a long way. Babies usually drink half an ounce of it, on average, in the first 24 hours. It’s high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies, and it has laxative-like properties that help pass meconium and fight jaundice.

After your baby is born, your changing hormones and baby’s sucking will increase blood flow to your breasts. The increased blood flow raises the volume of your breast milk, changing its composition twice during your baby’s first month.

First, the change from colostrum to transitional milk occurs 2–5 days after giving birth. Transitional milk is creamier in texture, higher in protein, and looks more like whole milk.

Then, around 10–14 days after birth, your milk will change again into what is known as mature milk. Mature milk is divided into foremilk (which comes out first) and hindmilk.

Foremilk is thinner and appears more like skim milk. You may even notice a bluish tint to it.

As the feeding continues, mature milk will become thicker and creamier in texture as the hindmilk is extracted. Hindmilk has a higher fat content than foremilk or transitional milk.

If you’ve had a child before, you may notice your milk comes in much sooner than the first time around. Interestingly, one study on the genes of mice found that this animal’s mammary glands may have a sort of “memory” that brings milk in quicker after subsequent births.

For many women, engorgement of the breasts is a dead giveaway that their transitional milk has come in. When your milk volume increases, the increased blood flow to the breasts will make them swell and feel rock hard.

Keep in mind that the discomfort associated with this change is temporary. Applying hot packs to the chest region before feeds — and cool packs after them — can help make engorgement a little more comfortable.

Over time, as mature milk develops, your breasts will become softer again. You may be surprised by this change and think your supply has dropped, but don’t worry. This is completely normal.

A change in the appearance of the milk coming from the breast is another indicator that your milk has changed from colostrum to a more mature form.

Colostrum is called liquid gold for a reason! It tends to be more yellow in color. It’s also thicker and stickier than mature milk, and it’s packed with a higher density of nutrients. Transitional milk will appear white.

Your breastmilk adapts to your growing baby and will change in volume, consistency, and composition over your baby’s first few weeks of life. Keeping track of wet and stool diapers will help you know whether your milk supply is increasing appropriately.

In the first few days, as your supply is getting established, make sure to feed your baby on demand, around the clock. Because newborn babies have small stomachs with low capacity, you may notice your baby wants to eat more frequently in the early days.

Given that breastmilk production is tied to demand, it’s important to feed or pump often and make sure that the milk inside your breast is being removed. If you find that your supply is decreasing, there are things you can do to help increase your supply.

Over time, you may find that you’re able to produce more breastmilk than your baby requires. Pumping and storing the extra milk in either the refrigerator or freezer will come in handy if you become ill, have a babysitter, or return to work.

For breastfed babies, the World Health Organization recommends feeding on demand. Your little one will let you know when they’re done by releasing their latch or pushing away.

In the beginning, you can expect an exclusively breastfed baby to eat every 2 to 3 hours around the clock.

Brand new babies often fall asleep at the breast, which doesn’t always mean they’re done. You may need to wake them to fill their belly.

As your little one grows, you may experience periods of cluster feeding, during which your baby wants to eat more frequently. This isn’t necessarily a sign that your milk supply is decreasing, so don’t worry if your baby seems extra hungry!

As your child learns to sleep longer chunks at night, you’ll likely be able to get a little more distance between feeds during the overnight period. Still, you can expect to feed your baby 8–12 times per day for the first few months.

If you find that your milk supply is taking a little longer than expected, don’t stress! Your body may need a few extra days due to your unique birthing and postpartum circumstances.

A delay in mature milk production doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel or give up hope.

Some potential reasons for a delay in increased milk production include:

  • premature birth
  • delivering via cesarean section (C-section)
  • certain medical conditions like diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • obesity
  • an infection or illness that includes a fever
  • prolonged bed rest throughout pregnancy
  • a thyroid condition
  • being unable to breastfeed during the first few hours following delivery
  • severe stress

You can increase your milk volume by making sure that your baby has a good latch when they feed, feeding your baby frequently, and ensuring feeds are lasting for an appropriate length of time.

In the first few days after birth, it’s common for feedings to take awhile. It might be 20 minutes per breast. As babies learn to extract milk, feeding time will shorten substantially.

If you find that your milk production is delayed or are worried that you have risk factors for delayed milk production, you should talk with a lactation consultant. They can work with you to ensure your baby receives sufficient nutrition and provide suggestions to help speed the process along.

It’s stressful thinking about a delay in milk production, but there’s no need to fear! Within just a few days of giving birth, chances are you’ll feel your breasts begin to fill with milk.

In the meantime, be sure to get your snuggles in. Relaxed, skin-to-skin time gives your baby plenty of opportunities to breastfeed and tells your body to make more milk.

While establishing your milk supply, it’s OK to do some research into formula options. Being prepared may help you relax, which will mean good things for your milk production!

If worries about your supply are keeping you up at night, don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor or meet with a lactation consultant. Chances are, getting some help will be all you need to boost your milk supply naturally.