A couple of days following delivery, your breasts will begin to harden and your milk will come in. Colostrum, the beginnings of breast milk, will enter your breasts and be secreted when your baby sucks for milk. Colostrum is rich in protein and helps provide early immunity to illnesses for your baby. It also helps clean the newborn’s digestive tract of the mucus that was produced as protection in utero.
When your milk comes in
Some women experience discomfort when their breasts become engorged as their milk comes in. Engorgement causes the breasts to become very hard and can be uncomfortable for a couple of days until your body adjusts. If you are breastfeeding the sooner you begin the better! Your baby’s sucking and heat (warm compresses or hot showers) also help stimulate breast milk production.
If you plan to formula feed
If you do not plan on breastfeeding, wear a firm bra to help decrease the stimulation of milk production 24 – 72 hours after delivery. As your breasts begin to feel tender, use ice packs to help reduce the tenderness. A hot shower may promote leaking of breast milk, so avoid prolonged exposure. Although pumping your breasts may relieve the discomfort, it is only a temporary solution. Pumping stimulates milk production. Pain medication may be used to relieve tenderness. As the milk reabsorbs, your breasts will become less tender and soft.