Dealing With A Delay In The Production Of Breast Milk

What To Do When Your Milk Isn't Coming In

Breastfeed very frequently and make sure your baby is latched on correctly. Fuse/Getty Images

A delay in the onset of milk production can be stressful. It can take up to five days for a first time mom to feel her breasts filling with breast milk. Other issues, such as a long, difficult labor, a poor breastfeeding latch, or medical conditions, may also be to blame. If you are experiencing a delay in your milk coming in, your baby may show constant signs of hunger and frustration, and you may begin to wonder if you will be able to breastfeed at all.

So, what can you do?

Tips For Dealing With A Delayed, Slow, or Late Onset of Milk Production

  • Talk to your nurse, the hospital breastfeeding specialist, your doctor, and your baby's pediatrician to let them know that you're concerned.
  • Ask for help to evaluate your baby's position and latch
  • Nurse your baby as much as possible, and at least every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day and night.
  • Keep track of your baby's wet (urine) diapers and bowel movements.
  • Monitor your baby's weight.
  • Use breast compression while you are nursing.
  • Try switch nursing.
  • Pump after each feeding to provide more stimulation to your breasts.
  • Follow all the instructions that you're given for follow-up care with your doctor and your baby's health care provider.
  • If you do not notice colostrum or any milk at all by the 3rd day after childbirth, call your doctor. Full lactation failure is rare, but it can occur.
  • If you do have colostrum, or a very small amount of milk, but you do not experience the fullness in your breasts from your milk coming in by the 5th day postpartum, call your doctor. Some types of physical or hormonal issues can lead to a true low milk supply. It's important to determine the underlying cause in order to correct the issue.
  • If you develop heavy bleeding, severe cramping, or a fever, call your doctor immediately. These are signs of infection, postpartum hemorrhage, or a retained placenta and should be taken care of right away.
  • You may have to supplement your baby if your milk supply is delayed for a long period of time, but that doesn't mean that you can't still breastfeed. Continue to breastfeed your baby along with supplementation. Once your milk fully comes in, you should be able to breastfeed exclusively. If you have a true low supply due to an issue that cannot be corrected, you can continue to breastfeed for comfort along with supplementation for as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Breastfeeding provides so much more than just nutrition for your child.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Hurst, N. M. Recognizing and Treating Delayed or Failed Lactogenesis II. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. 2007; 52(6): 588-594.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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