Colostrum production during pregnancy

Someone used the search term “how soon before labor begin lactating”. I’m afraid she may have been looking for a way to tell when she was going to go into labor — that’s pretty typical when you get “great with child” to be on the lookout for some sign — any sign! — that you will soon be having your baby out of your body and into your arms. (While there are some indications, there is no fool-proof sign, unfortunately.)

Your body begins the preparation process for breastfeeding, actually as part of your normal menstrual cycle, but it doesn’t really “kick in” until you get pregnant — that’s why one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is more-sensitive nipples and larger breasts. (The areola — the brown portion around the nipples — also gets darker brown when you’re pregnant, and this starts early in pregnancy too.) There may be a “range of normal” for when you start producing the first colostrum (the earliest milk, packed with calories and antibodies), but it varies even different pregnancies for the same woman. When I was pregnant the first time, I noticed that I could express some colostrum a few weeks before I gave birth; the second time, it was a few months prior. It may be that I just noticed it earlier the second time; although it’s equally possible that since it was my second time, that my body started making it earlier. Both my babies were born on the exact same day of gestation, so this cannot possibly be a “marker” for when you’ll go into labor.

This is actually pretty cool, because if your baby should happen to be born premature, then you can still give him or her breastmilk — and that milk is specially designed for premature infants — it actually differs in make-up from the breastmilk of a full-term infant. While your infant may be too premature to suckle, if s/he can take any nourishment by mouth (as opposed to requiring IVs), then you can pump the milk and feed it to the baby.

6 Responses

  1. I was one of those women whose areolas didn’t darken. I did gain a cup size during pregnancy (and another after the birth), but I didn’t experience any nipple tenderness during pregnancy.

  2. Hi! Came here from the news page and wanted to comment about my own experience…

    With my first pregnancy I was 15wks preg when I started leaking colostrum…with my second pregnancy I was 14wks when I started…so both times I had to wear breast pads almost th entire time I was pregnant! The only difference was the second time whenever I would look at baby stuff or baby pictures or just think (or DREAM) about babies I would gush milk to the point you could almost wring out my shirt!

    So, in short…it isn’t a very reliable method of determining labor!

  3. With my first pregnancy I started LEAKING colostrum the day before my first trimester ended. Turns out I’m a milk machine and have aggressive let down. I don’t know when it would have started my second time because I was still nursing. I’ve stopped nursing for 3 months now and I still leak sometimes.

  4. I just found out Monday 1/5/09 that I am 4 weeks pregnant with my second child. With my first baby I started leaking around my 5 month and when it started it was quite noticible. I just noticed this morning that I am leaking colosturm already… I was nervous so I googled it and it appears to be pretty normal.

  5. I’m 24 weeks pregnant and my colostrum is just now coming in. At first, I didn’t know what the hell was going on because everyone I could find on the internet said that their colostrum was yellow. Mine is like off-white. Anyway, I’m not expecting my little man for a few more months.

    • Yes, off-white with a yellowish color. I think it may become more yellow either later in pregnancy or after the birth, then it gradually changes into mature milk. What’s really cool about breastmilk is that the milk a mother makes if her baby is born premature is different from the milk a mother makes with a mature baby. It is so individualized and specialized, even when premature! So cool.

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