Women have been breastfeeding their babies since the beginning of time. There’s nothing more natural or maternal than nourishing your baby from your body. The experience is one of magic and comfort that improves health and vitality for the child, as well as the sense of connection for the mother. As natural as the action of nursing is, it doesn’t mean that it comes naturally for every woman, especially in the early days. If you choose to breastfeed your child, you can look forward to cultivating new levels of patience.
Types of Breast Milk
Breast milk is super high in nutrients, protects the baby from illness and infection, and can help Mom restore her body to its pre-baby state. But did you know that you’ll produce different types of breast milk? The three stages of milk are colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk. As you work your way through the nursing process, your body will experience changes during each stage.
Stage One: Colostrum
You may have seen colostrum in your local health foods store. It’s quickly gaining ground as a supplement because it’s high-protein, packed with antibodies, and contains immunoglobulins—everything Baby needs. Typically, it’s a cream or yellow color, much thicker than the breast milk you’ll produce later in the nursing cycle. Lasting for about five days, this is also the stage where your body will establish supply and demand.
Stage Two: Transitional Milk
As the colostrum decreases, transitional milk takes over, which you’ll produce based on how much your child feeds. It occurs about five days to one week after the birth and lasts for about fourteen days. This type of milk is a combination of colostrum and mature milk, meaning it will be different colors and consistencies depending on the day. It contains very high levels of good fats, lactose, sugar, and calories essential for helping baby regain the weight lost post-birth. This is also the stage in which breast engorgement is most common, a condition where high amounts of swelling occur in the breasts. Read more about it here.
Stage Three: Mature Milk
Mature milk might not be what you’re expecting. 90% of this final stage of milk is water! The rest is made up of over 200 different types of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. And these are just what science can currently identify. There are still several mystery substances in breast milk we can’t quite quantify. We do know, however, that this last stage of milk has two types: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is what you produce at the beginning of the feeding. It tends to be thin, very watery, and low in fats. As the feeding continues, the milk becomes hindmilk which is very creamy and high in fats and carbs. You’ll continue to produce breast milk until you stop breastfeeding (read more about the weaning process here) or until you become pregnant again.