Transitional Breast Milk Stage

Milk spilling from baby bottle
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Transitional breast milk is the second stage of breast milk production. It follows the production of colostrum (the first stage of breast milk) and precedes mature breast milk (the third and last stage of breast milk). Once transitional breast milk begins to come in, it usually lasts for about two weeks.

When the Transitional Breast Milk Stage Begins

Your breast milk will change from colostrum to transitional breast milk at around five days after the birth of your baby.

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

If you don't notice your breasts filling with transitional breast milk a full week after your baby is born, you should call a doctor. A delay in the production of breast milk can be dangerous for your baby.

Delayed transitional milk can cause dehydration and weight loss in your baby. 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.

Timing of Transitional Breast Milk

The transitional stage of breast milk starts at approximately the fifth day after the birth of your baby and continues until your mature breast milk is completely in at about two to three weeks postpartum. The entire transitional milk stage lasts for approximately 10 to 14 days until the mature milk comes in.

What Transitional Breast Milk Looks Like

Breast milk can be a variety of colors and tints. Colostrum is typically yellow or orange and thick in consistency. Mature breast milk is thinner than colostrum, 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 more 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.

How Much You Will 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 1 to 4 teaspoons of colostrum a day on the second or third day after your baby is born to making somewhere around 20 ounces of transitional breast milk a day by about a week later.

What Transitional Breast Milk Is Made From

Transitional breast milk is a combination of all the nutrients and health properties that make up colostrum and mature breast milk, but has more calories than colostrum. It contains all the nutrition that your baby needs during this stage of development.

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 is naturally lost in the first few days after birth.

Breast Engorgement

Breast engorgement is a normal experience during the transitional breast milk stage and is the result of the sudden increase in the amount of breast milk that your body is making.

Though normal, engorgement can be very uncomfortable for you and can make breastfeeding more challenging for your baby. To relieve any pain and pressure, you can try a cold compress (some also claim using cold cabbage leaves can also provide relief).

You can also pump or hand express a small amount of breast milk before breastfeeding to make it easier for your baby to latch on and to relieve the extreme fullness. If you are still in pain, Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) can help, too.

Note that breast engorgement can cause a fever. This type of fever is sometimes called milk fever. If you have a fever but no other symptoms of illness, it may be milk fever. But if you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact a doctor.

Breast engorgement experienced during the transitional milk stage is temporary. You should begin to feel better within a few days or a week as your breast milk supply adjusts to your baby's needs.

A Word From Verywell

In most circumstances, your body will make colostrum and transitional breast milk after you give birth, whether you choose to breastfeed or not. Though your body will make breast milk automatically during the first few weeks, it will slow down, and production will eventually stop if you don't frequently put your baby to the breast or pump.

To establish and maintain a healthy breast milk supply, you should breastfeed your newborn every one to three hours throughout the day and night (eight to 12 times a day). It's also important to practice self-care by getting enough sleep and eating nutritious meals.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.