The Stages of Milk Production
When starting your lactation journey, one of the most exciting things is those first few, precious drops of milk. Everyone will have their own unique experience with milk and what it looks like. It can range from clear/watery, milky white, grey/green/brown/dark, or red/pink.
When you begin inducing there is going to be some time (a week or more) when the breasts feel swollen and heavy like they are full but nothing comes out. At this point the milk making apparatus is starting to turn on, and it starts producing some of the components of milk, which, in turn, draws water into the alveoli across the cell membranes which brings in the fluid component of the milk. When this is occurs, if you are pumping, you will begin to express a clear watery substance.
Let’s take a look at the colours and textures of milk that you can expect to see.
Clear drops are the most common indicator that you will see when you first start inducing. You will begin to express a clear watery substance – milk is not far behind. When you have just delivered a baby and your milk comes in this clear, thick, yellowy substance that precedes the milk is colostrum. One thing that should be clarified is, when inducing, it is NOT colostrum. Many people mistake it for colostrum, but you will never produce colostrum if you are inducing – colostrum is only produced by a woman that has given birth, as it is part of the hormonal and other changes that take place in the body at the end of pregnancy.
This is what you desire. When your breasts are producing a milky white fluid then you ARE successfully lactating – even if you are only seeing drops at this point you should consider your efforts a success.
Grey / Green / Brown / Dark
Also a fairly typical when you begin to re-lactate after a period of not lactating. Brown and green and most of the other colours is due to what happens when the breasts stop lactating. When you are lactating, the ducts are open and milk flows through them. When your breast stop lactating, the alveoli shut down and stop working and many of them turn to fat. The cells lining the duct system die and shed into this fluid. It is these dead cells and debris that colours this fluid green and brown. Generally, this is not a problem but rather is just an indication the breasts and milk making ducts have been dormant for a period of time. If you continue pumping, your milk will start to turn into the milky fluid that you desire.
Red / Pink
Red/pink is always a cause for concern. It can indicate trauma to the breast, perhaps from a rough pump. Keep an eye on it and if it becomes a concern it warrants an exam by your physician.