Breast milk changes in the first few days after giving birth. Initially, your breasts produce small amounts of rich, nutritious colostrum that’s perfect for your newborn baby. Midwives often call colostrum ‘liquid gold’ since it’s a lovely yellow colour and helps to give your baby the best start in life.
Don’t worry if it seems as though you’re producing very little colostrum. Your baby’s tummy is tiny and will fill up quickly. As long as you feed little and often, she’ll get everything she needs.
After a few days, you’ll begin to feel your milk ‘coming in’ and you’ll begin to produce much more breast milk, which is less concentrated.
At the beginning of a feed, your breasts produce thirst-quenching higher water content milk (what we used to call ‘foremilk’), which is gradually followed by thick, creamy higher fat content milk (still sometimes called ‘hindmilk’), full of the fatty acids your baby’s growing brain and body need. As long as you let your baby feed for as long as she wants from one breast, you can be confident that she’ll be getting the high calorie and nutritious fattier milk.
It’s important to remember that your body doesn’t produce two different types of milk – it’s just that your milk gradually becomes more fat rich as the feed progresses. No switch is flicked to ‘hindmilk’ after a certain number of minutes. If the breast is a bit emptier and hasn’t gone back to full storage capacity, perhaps if your baby is cluster feeding, your milk might be fattier from the start of a feed. every feed begins with the more watery milk. And not every feed ends with the higher fat content milk if it’s a warmer day and your baby just fancies some hydration.
If you switch from one breast to the other too quickly when your baby hasn’t asked to change, your baby might always be drinking the more watery milk and not feel satisfied. So leave her on one breast until she tells you she’s ready to swap. At this point, your baby may be full and ready to stop feeding, but you can switch to the other breast if she wants to continue. Breasts can never be completely empty but when the flow has slowed down and it’s no longer meeting her needs, your baby might indicate she is ready to swap sides.