Once your baby is born, your breasts will start producing milk, right? Well, sort of. For most mums, milk production actually begins before baby has been born, and what is produced then is quite different to what will be there if you’re still breastfeeding when bubs turns one. Breastmilk is an ever-evolving substance that serves a range of purposes for your little one. But within those wide variations, there are three broad categories that your milk will fall under at different stages. So today, let’s talk breastmilk!


Colostrum: The First Superfood

So, we mentioned that your body will begin milk production before your baby is born. That specific milk is the first stage and is called “colostrum”. This milk is not quite the same as what you might be thinking of – and it’s very definitely different to the milk that might be sitting in your fridge, waiting for your breakfast cereal. You might have heard us referring in other places to ‘liquid gold’, and while that sometimes might mean breastmilk in general, it’s more often used in relation to colostrum. And there are a couple of excellent reasons for that. First, and perhaps most obviously when you see it, is the colour. Colostrum is often quite yellow in colour due to the presence of beta carotene – and yep, that’s the same substance that gives carrots their colour. How yellow colostrum will be will vary from person to person, from a very pale yellow, or even white, to quite a deep yellow verging on orange – similar to an egg yolk. Colostrum may also change colour depending on when it’s produced; some mothers have found that it becomes much more yellow in colour after their baby is born, compared to the colostrum they may have expressed antenatally. It also tends to be much thicker and stickier than the later stages, which can come as a surprise when trying to express it!


The second reason it gets the name “liquid gold” is just how precious it is. It is packed with nutrients – it’s high in protein, low in fat, and contains large quantities of immunological factors, including antibodies. For this reason, it’s fantastic for your little one’s immune system and is easy to digest, giving them a good hit of nutrition in those very early days when their digestive system is getting to grips with things. It also acts as a laxative, helping them pass meconium. Finally, it contains a lot of growth factors, making it well worth its weight in gold – as the nickname suggests!


Not everyone will need to express their colostrum. Some midwives or maternity care providers may recommend it, however – especially if there is the potential your baby will need extra nutrition after delivery. Expressing can be a little tricky, but your LMC will guide you on the best way to do so if they think you need to build a stash. Usually, this won’t be recommended until you’re around 37 weeks along, as nipple stimulation may cause contractions, leading to a small risk of early labour, though this will vary according to each person’s individual needs. If you do end up expressing colostrum, the Haakaa Silicone Colostrum Collector is the perfect item to have on hand. It’s important to remember that colostrum can usually only be expressed in droplets for most mums, and patience is required – especially if you are expressing antenatally.

Transitional Milk: The Bridging Stage

The fact it’s called transitional milk probably gives you a good hint as to the nature of this milk stage. Colostrum production will last the first 2-4 days postpartum, at which point it will change as your baby’s needs do. Your body will start producing mature milk, but it won’t switch all at once; rather, it’s a gradual transition, boosting the levels of fat and overall calories to help your baby grow and gain weight. Each day, you’ll be able to see a difference in the colour and consistency of your milk as it loses its yellow tinge and becomes thinner – possibly more like the milk you’re expecting to see. This transitional stage will last a couple of weeks as it completes its transformation into its third and final stage – mature milk. It is also during this transitional stage that many mums find they are most likely to deal with engorgement as their bodies try to adapt to producing the correct amount of milk for their babies.


Mature Milk: Complete Nutrition

Somewhere around the two-week mark (though, as with most things breastfeeding, this will vary from person to person), your mature milk supply becomes fully established. Mature milk itself is often divided into two stages, though this is per feed – foremilk, for the beginning of a feed, and hindmilk, for the end. Foremilk tends to be thinner and higher in volume, with a range of nutrients mixed in. Hindmilk, on the other hand, is a much richer, creamier milk and helps slow down the rate of digestion. It is this mature milk that your body will continue to produce for the rest of your breastfeeding journey. That doesn’t mean its composition remains static; it continues to adjust each day, and even from feed to feed, depending on what your baby needs. This includes the levels of immune cells such as leukocytes, which increase in numbers when either mum or baby is sick – how neat is that?


This is just a very brief rundown of the way milk is produced in different ways by our bodies. It’s ever-changing and is designed to perfectly meet your little one’s nutritional and immune needs, and it all happens without you even having to think about it! Take a moment to appreciate just how amazing your body can be.