Transitional Breast Milk: Definition, Information, Tips

Definition, Information, Tips, And Answers To 7 Common Questions

All About Transitional Breast Milk: Definition, Information, and Tips
Breast engorgement is common during the transitional breast milk stage. David Oliver/Getty Images

What Is Transitional Breast Milk?

Transitional breast milk is the second stage of breast milk production. It's a combination of colostrum (the first stage of breast milk), and mature breast milk (the third and last stage of breast milk). When the mature breast milk begins to come in and mixes with colostrum, it's called transitional breast milk.

When Will You Start Making Transitional Breast Milk?

Your breast milk will change from colostrum to transitional breast milk anywhere from 2 to 5 days after the birth of your baby.

It may take a little longer for the transitional milk stage to begin in first-time mothers. But, for women who have had a baby and breastfed before, the transitional breast milk stage could start earlier.

The transitional breast milk stage is the time that is often referred to as your milk coming in. During this stage, you may notice that your breasts are filling up with breast milk. They may become large, heavy, and swollen.

If you do not notice your breasts filling with transitional breast milk by the 5th day after your baby is born, call your doctor. A delay in the production of breast milk can be dangerous for your baby. It can quickly lead to dehydration and weight loss. If your breast milk is not coming in, you need to find out what's causing the delay and correct it as soon as possible.

How Long Does The Transitional Milk Stage Last?

The transitional stage of breast milk starts at approximately the 3rd day after the birth of your baby and continues until your mature breast milk is fully in at about 2 to 3 weeks postpartum.

So, the entire transitional breast milk stage lasts between 10 and 14 days.

What Does Transitional Breast Milk Look Like?

Colostrum is typically yellow or orange and thicker in consistency. Mature breast milk is thinner, and it's usually white, light yellow, or blue-tinged. Since transitional milk is a mixture of both of these types of breast milk, it can be any combination of these consistencies and colors.

At first, it will appear yellow and creamy. But, as the days go on and more mature milk is produced and mixed in, the transitional milk will begin to take on the appearance of the thinner, and whiter, mature milk.

See Also: The Colors Of Breast Milk: What's Normal?

How Much Transitional Breast Milk Will You Make?

Compared to colostrum, which is only produced in very small amounts, the supply of transitional breast milk is much greater. You will go from making approximately 2 ounces of colostrum a day on the 2nd or 3rd day after your baby is born to making somewhere around 20 ounces of transitional breast milk a day by about a week later.

What Is In Transitional Breast Milk?

Transitional breast milk is a combination of all the nutrients and health properties that make up colostrum and mature breast milk. It contains all the nutrition that your baby needs.

As it changes from colostrum to mature milk, the amount of protein and antibodies in transitional breast milk begins to go down a little bit.

But, the amount of fat, sugar, and calories increase. These higher levels of fat, sugar, and calories help your baby to gain back some of the weight that was lost in the first few days after birth.

What Can You Do About Breast Engorgement During The Transitional Milk Phase?

Breast engorgement is a normal and common experience during the transitional breast milk stage. It usually starts during the first week or so after childbirth, and it's the result of the sudden increase in the amount of breast milk that you're making. Here are some tips to help you get through breast engorgement during the transitional milk stage.

  • If you breastfeed very often during the first two days after your baby is born, the symptoms of engorgement may not be as bad.

  • It may be harder for your baby to latch on if your breasts are very engorged. To make it easier for your baby to latch on, remove a small amount of breast milk before you breastfeed to soften your breasts.

  • To relieve the pain and pressure of breast engorgement you can try to use a cold compress or cabbage leaves. You can also pump or hand express a small amount of breast milk. If you are still in too much pain, talk to your doctor about taking a pain reliever such as Tylenol or Motrin.

  • Breast engorgement can cause a fever. If you get a fever, but you do not have any other symptoms or any other reason for a fever, it could be the engorgement. This type of fever is sometimes called a milk fever.

  • Try to remember that the breast engorgement experienced during the transitional milk stage should not last that long. Your breast milk supply will adjust to your baby's needs within a few days or a week, and you should feel better.   

Sources:

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

Cadwell, Karin, Turner-Maffei, Cynthia, O'Connor, Barbara, Cadwell Blair, Anna, Arnold, Lois D.W., and Blair Elyse M. Maternal and Infant Assessment for Breastfeeding and Human Lactation A Guide for the Practitioner Second Edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2006.

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

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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