Pregnancy, Baby
5th Aug 2020

From satisfying your baby’s hunger to enjoying a unique bonding experience, you might be familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding your bub. But did you know there are three different stages of breast milk, each with their own unique properties?

As your new little bundle of joy grows and develops during their first days of life, your body produces different types of breast milk to meet their needs. Read on to discover these three phases of lactation and how they vary in volume and nutritional make up from stage to stage (1,2). But, don’t forget that every mother’s journey with breastfeeding is different and your experiences may vary from those outlined below.

Stage 1: Colostrum

When a baby is born, the first type of breast milk that their mother’s body produces is called colostrum. Usually, this stage of breast milk lasts from the baby’s first day post-delivery through to day seven.

Colostrum contains the most immune cells (like antibodies) out of all three stages of breast milk and is rich in both macro and micronutrients.

A mother’s body generally produces very small volumes of nutrient-dense colostrum at first, which is the perfect amount for her little newborn baby. Although your bub doesn’t require a large amount of milk during this time, encouraging them to suck at the breast frequently can help to stimulate your milk production.

Stage 2: Transitional Milk

The second stage of breast milk usually comes in between days 8-20 after birth. It’s called transitional milk because it’s the breast milk that’s produced during the body’s transition from colostrum to mature milk.

Compared to colostrum, transitional milk is higher in energy (kilojoules) and by is produced in larger amounts. The levels of antibodies and other immune cells also begin to decline from the levels in colostrum.

Stage 3: Mature Milk

The third and final stage of breast milk is mature milk, which is generally produced by a mother’s body from day 20 post-birth onwards.

Like all stages of breast milk, mature milk continues to supply the baby with an array of essential nutrients and immune cells, and will adapt and change to meet their unique needs.

For example, a mother’s body is very clever and can respond to bugs and germs in her immediate surroundings by producing specific antibodies and passing them onto her baby via breast milk.

How Long Should You Breastfeed For?

From when a baby is around 20-days-old, a mother’s body continues to produce mature breast milk. While deciding how long to breastfeed your child is a very personal choice, the World Health Organisation recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until they are six months old.

After this, its recommended that breastfeeding continues alongside complementary foods until the child’s second birthday.

Every mother’s experience with breastfeeding is unique to her and may vary from child to child. Some mothers may also find breastfeeding more difficult than they expected.

If your breastfeeding journey hasn’t gone to plan, you may find it comforting to remember that any amount of breast milk that you are able to feed your baby plays an important role in supporting their health (3).

Tips For Breastfeeding

Although a beautiful bonding opportunity between mother and child, breastfeeding can be a challenging process. There are wide variety of factors that may affect breastfeeding, but some general tips to keep in mind include (4):

  • If possible, try to ensure close contact with your baby immediately after birth
  • Remember that your newborn baby will feed quite often (between 7 and 12 times in 24 hours) during their first few days
  • Feed your baby frequently and allow them to suck at the breast to satisfy them, stimulate milk production and support your continued milk supply
  • Find a position that’s comfortable for you and try to relax
  • Be patient and kind to yourself. Remember that breastfeeding is a new skill for you and your newborn and it can take time to learn.

When it comes to breastfeeding, the most important thing to remember is that every experience is different.

If you have any concerns about breastfeeding your baby, talk to your doctor or health professional who can take your individual experiences into consideration and provide unique advice. If you’re looking for additional support, call the breastfeeding hotline on 1800 686 268.

If you’ve found the information in this article helpful, you may also be interested in the following:

This Is How Breastfeeding Supports Your Baby’s Healthy Immune System

Breastfeeding Battles: Achieving A Successful Latch

References

  1. Cacho, N & Lawrence, R. (2017). Innate Immunity and Breast Milk. Frontiers in Immunology, 8:584. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00584.
  2. Infant Nutrition Council. (2013). Breastmilk Information. Accessed 28 May 2020 https://www.infantnutritioncouncil.com/resources/breastmilk-information/
  3. Australian Breastfeeding Association. (2018). How long should I breastfeed my baby? Accessed 28 May 2020 https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/how-long-should-i-breastfeed-my-baby
  4. The Royal Women’s Hospital. (2020). Tips for breastfeeding success. Accessed 28 May 2020 https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-overview/tips-for-breastfeeding-success

Related Articles

Articles and Advice
Baby
25th Sep 2020
7 min read
Articles and Advice
Baby
11th Aug 2020
3 min read