Milk never came?

(38 Posts)
BottleNapChangeRepeat Fri 08-Jan-21 17:01:15

Luckily I never wanted to breast feed because even if I wanted to I couldn't have. I had absolutely no milk, not even a drop on a breast pad. Boobs didn't go tender either, midwife just kept saying oh it'll come and when it does you will be in pain then. Has anyone else had similar or know why the milk never came through? I have tried to Google but can't find what I'm looking for. Not really fussed just keeps crossing my mind.

OP’s posts: |
MrsPatrickDempsey Fri 08-Jan-21 17:05:06

Breastfeeding is largely supply and demand. Milk is made in response to the baby sucking. Boobs aren't like bottles that contain x amount of milk. It's more like the baby sucks and the milk supply is stimulated.

Nighthawker Fri 08-Jan-21 17:09:10

I was the same, OP. Everyone told me the milk would come in on the third day, it never happened and like you I never needed so much as a single breast pad. I had tried getting baby to latch on, wasn't having it, tried the breast pump on the midwives advice, still nothing. I had a fairly traumatic birth with a lot of blood loss and complications after, so I put it down to that, my body must have thought "nope, not doing that after all we've been through already."

SnuggyBuggy Sat 09-Jan-21 06:59:12

I'll never understand why there isn't any attempt at diagnosis when this happens. I'm guessing it's like other female health conditions that get fobbed off. There is a condition called insufficient glandular tissue which can affect the ability to produce milk.

sar302 Sat 09-Jan-21 08:02:27

Same here. Mine never came in. No engorgment. Never a pain. Never a leak. I persisted. loads of skin to skin everyday etc. Nothing ever came out when I tried pumping either.

I was told it could be a "response to a traumatic delivery". I'll never know I suppose. Thankfully once they get past a year old or, the obsession with how your child receives its milk tends to disappear! And then it gets easier not to think about it any more.

Hihellohi Sat 09-Jan-21 08:04:22

I had this too.
Everybody kept saying the same, that the milk will come on day 3 - but nothing. Happened with with all three births.
With regards to the supply/demand comment - I don’t know how true this is (based on my experience) but it’s always trotted out.
What I’ve never understood and clearly still midst bugs me is that:
They tell you baby’s stomach is so small anyway so they don’t need to feed much - if you take is as truth why would you keep trying to feed them if they seem happy and have wet nappies?
What if you have a sleepy baby?
What about the stories I’ve read about women who give birth to stillborn babies and their milk still comes in - which is desperately sad.

I did all the manual expressing to stimulate supply, held my babies to the breast to encourage latch, paid for tongue tie midwife to come and cut, pumped electronically but nothing came of it.

I used to hear of all the women soaking their tops - didn’t happen for me.

And I agree with a PP - why isn’t this looked into? Maybe there’s not many of us or there are too many variables. It wouldn’t surprise me that it’s a “women’s problem” so it’s generally fobbed off.

RockCrushesLizard Sat 09-Jan-21 08:36:21

I'm sorry this happened to you, and hope you have had time to process the feelings that this must throw up for you.

You're absolutely right that for any other organ that randomly didn't function as expected, there would be investigations, a body of research etc. However because it's "just" breastfeeding, and "just" women there's so little research.
Health professionals frequently have very little knowledge beyond the absolute basics, because training isn't seen as important. It's infuriating because the (cheap and easy) sloganeering "breast is best" messaging is seen as an appropriate substitute for real information and support that costs health systems money. While conveniently shifting responsibility for the outcomes onto the individual mother rather than the system surrounding her, and calling it choice.

We know that for around 0.5% of women, milk doesn't come in - sometimes there's a correlation with blood loss, trauma, retained placenta, breast hypoplasia. But sometimes those things don't prevent a good supply and we don't know why. It isn't always supply and demand. Obviously that is the case the vast majority of the time, but on a site for mums as big as this there will certainly be lots of women who share your experiences.

It's utterly inadequate, and leads to so many women internalising feelings of guilt and failure, when they could not have done anything differently, and have themselves been failed by this horrid system. Thankfully we have a nutritious, safe alternative food source for babies, and I'm sure your little one is thriving, but you are totally justified in in feeling angry, upset and grieving that the information you needed didn't exist.

Yet another area where capitalism and patriarchy make a perfect storm of stomping on women's choices.


Witchend Sat 09-Jan-21 08:58:49

I had a friend who this happened to. She genuinely didn't produce milk.
It's very rare though.
In her case she discovered it was genetic as her mum and aunt then admitted that they had not produced any either.

HoppingPavlova Sat 09-Jan-21 09:18:26

Yep, it’s a thing. It’s rare but definitely real. Some causes are known (still can’t do anything in the main though), but mostly it’s a mystery. For those affected, don’t let anyone tell you it’s about supply and demand or that you are doing anything wrong, tell them to go jump.

BogRollBOGOF Sat 09-Jan-21 09:20:16

Mine came in late with DS1, and he was over a week old before the engorgement kicked in. I did have a tiny amount of colostrum and small amounts of milk, and we blundered through with hand expressing, putting him to the nipple and formula top-ups.
It was a traumatic birth, long labour, EMCS, blood loss, compromised organ function (HDU)
Next birth was better and feeding far easier to establish.

I agree that lack of research and information about the science of breastfeeding massively undermines maternal efforts and causes preventable distress.

funtimefrank Sat 09-Jan-21 09:44:30


Mine never came in. My boobs never got larger in pregnancy, I never leaked, when they were born not a drop of colostrum. I put them on, I used the hospital pump and all that jazz.

No one massively interested. I had twins after ivf and had to have a section due to their position. However I did pregnancy pretty well - had a lot of sickness but otherwise thrived, got them to 39 weeks etc.

I didn't feel guilty but I did feel a bit sad as I had wanted to at least try at the start. However I had such medicalised care and had no community midwife ante natal care in which to discuss it (I had to fight to get my matb1 as my consultant didn't have a clue/give a shit)

My post natal midwifes theory was that my body had just done a bit too much with the twin pregnancy and had literally run out of juice. It's interesting about the retained placenta comment above as I did end up about 6 weeks post birth with a raging uterine infection due to a bit of retained product post section.

36degrees Sat 09-Jan-21 09:56:24

My breast tissue didn't develop in the usual way during puberty and it's likely I only produced a tiny amount because of this. They never got bigger during pregnancy. I was surprised that none of the health professionals I engaged with seemed to have come across it before and didn't seem to be able to make the link between a lack of 'normal' breast development and the subsequent impact on function. Agree that it needs more research and education.

ilovetea14 Sat 09-Jan-21 10:17:59

I was the same on both my children nothing came in not a drop, my boobs were never sore or sensitive. I didn't want to breast feed so I was happy. I like to think my body knew I didn't want to breast feed so didn't bother going to the trouble of making it!! Both pregnancys were lovely. Both my dc came two weeks early not traumatic thank goodness. On my DD I went in to labour at 5.15am she was born 7.12am home the same day. I find it interesting though that for some it doesn't come through.

SpaceDoubt Sat 09-Jan-21 13:46:14

I don't think my milk every properly came in either OP. I persevered for 5 weeks with a baby who only lost 7% of his birth weight but then he just didn't gain weight as he should despite feeding constantly and a couple of bottles of formula a day too. Midwife and HV told me I wasn't feeding enough, I must be missing cues due to using a dummy, and made me feel no end of guilt about it.

Eventually I could take no more and switched to formula, at which point DS gained weight beautifully and was a much more settled baby. GP told me afterwards my body was putting all its energy into replacing the blood id lost in my traumatic birth and my milk just wasn't fatty enough! Never had any leaking once I'd stopped too, and no engorgement. So it does happen! And I hate that no one explained this to me when I was a struggling new mum

WankPuffins Sat 09-Jan-21 13:56:03

Three babies and milk never came in at all.

I tried in vain to breastfeed the first two. Nothing. Starved the poor things while being pressured to "persevere" but HCP.

Third baby went straight to FF. None this time either. No leaking, no change in size or tenderness,

BottleNapChangeRepeat Sun 10-Jan-21 00:14:04

I didn't realize that so many others have been through the same thing, and for those that did want to bf but couldnt, I really feel sorry for you.
I was always being told by the midwife what to do when the milk does come in but never once mentioned it might not happen.

The birth went quite we I think, it was really quick so think my body was in shock for a few days afterwards ( could not stop shaking for about 5 days ) but wasn't trumatic.
Like a PP said I wonder if my body knew I wasn't breast feeding so never bothered to make it haha

OP’s posts: |
BertieBotts Sun 10-Jan-21 00:22:51

Not leaking, lack of engorgement etc doesn't necessarily mean that milk didn't come in, it might have just not come in as forcefully as usual. I never leaked with DC2 but am still feeding him at 2yo. We were separated for 36 hours after birth and it definitely impacted my milk supply in the beginning.

I am also sure that it does happen that milk just doesn't ever get produced but I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it's definitely what happened just because you didn't get engorged or leak, because although this is common it doesn't always happen that way, especially if there was something that interrupted the process at the beginning like a C-section or baby going to special care.

A lot of times breastfeeding info is simplified into soundbites which is why it sometimes comes across as contradictory, it's likely the case that whatever is being said is more complicated and nuanced but either the person giving this information doesn't know or has limited time or it's a limited format, eg a leaflet may only give a very simplified account.

Wearywithteens Sun 10-Jan-21 00:24:49

My milk did come in eventually after about a week but the wait and using formula caused me more stress than the rest of the pregnancy and labour out together. We’d been told that if they learn to use a bottle they’d never take to the breast which was bullshit. I didn’t bf for long as I wasn’t prolific but this is why I hate this ‘breast is best’ mantra. It causes so much anxiety for new mothers.

SarahAndQuack Sun 10-Jan-21 00:29:10

One thing might be that that 'day 3' is an average. DP had a traumatic labour (emergency c section then both she and DD had sepsis, so were ill and DD wasn't able to latch for a while). DP's milk only came in on day 7, and she'd been grimly pumping and getting tiny mounts of colostrum then nothing. I think the advice that's handed out is really unhelpful - if she'd not literally been soaking through her t-shirt with milk, she'd have accepted she couldn't BF, because it was so much later than what they'd said.

Fast forward a few months. Most babies lose 7-10% birth weight; she lost much more (I've blanked out how much) and we were told she had to have formula top-ups every two hours. She kept losing weight.As soon as we were signed off daily visits we went on holiday and we lost the sterilising kit, so DP just breastfed, and you know what? DD was just fine. No need of top ups at all.

I do often feel angry there isn't more research into breastfeeding that doesn't follow the nice normal pattern of a mother who has milk early on and never gives a bottle of formula.

ItsIgginningtolookalotlikeXmas Sun 10-Jan-21 00:29:38

Surely the posters who didn't want to bf (and were thus using formula) weren't putting their baby to their breast and therefore the milk was not stimulated to come in?
I fully accept women can do that and still nothing, but if you weren't doing any bfing I don't know why you'd expect the milk to come in in any noticeable way.

BertieBotts Sun 10-Jan-21 00:39:18

It's not just supply and demand. There's a huge amount of things which feed into milk supply. The most significant in the early days is hormonal, there are hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding, then there is a big hormonal shift caused by birth and the removal of the placenta - IIRC this is part of why C-section can cause a slower milk supply establishment. Hormonal changes and shifts are why milk often comes in even for women who never breastfeed or sadly lose a baby or give up a baby immediately for adoption. But likewise if this hormonal process is interrupted or prevented for some reason it could cause a massive barrier to milk supply.

Then there are hormones and pheromones involved in touching and holding your brand new newborn, which in a perfect situation is repeated multiple times throughout the first days of life. If you're separated or can only pump during this time then you won't benefit from this and this can cause a slump in milk supply.

And then supply and demand as well. If you are separated from your baby and need to pump this may not be as effective at removing milk as a baby. It is also a very short window to get the correct advice.

Sometimes even when one or multiple of these barriers occur milk will come in with a vengeance anyway. In other situations women have breastfed in all kinds of adverse situations including with adoptive babies, so totally lacking the pregnancy hormone side. In this case they usually take hormonal supplements.

But altogether it's a complicated dance with many factors and it would be impossible to say without a specific diagnosis oh yes, it was definitely this which caused it.

And I do suspect sadly that research is lacking because the solution is seen as easy - formula. That certainly solves the baby feeding issue but not necessarily the emotional fallout if a mum has been made to feel it's "her fault".

Makegoodchoices Sun 10-Jan-21 00:44:01

I did 5 days - I think he got some colostrum and then seemed to be just sucking blood out. The milk never came and I never had to use the breast pads, although I used a couple to keep the blood off my bras - I’m told he had a great latch, but it didn’t help at all. The midwives insisted I moved to formula and I suspect it was to do with having an infection + emergency c section a few weeks early that it didn’t work.

BertieBotts Sun 10-Jan-21 00:46:32

Very common for milk to come in on day 5-7 with c-section, even if no other traumatic factors are present. I don't know why this isn't included in standard BF info. I knew it, but I think I'd probably done quite a lot of reading around during pregnancy which maybe not everyone would do. It certainly causes self doubt and worry for a lot of mums and if topping up isn't handled carefully (which it hardly ever is in the NHS because nobody has the time or the training) it can exacerbate supply issues.

Bottle confusion isn't quite as drastic as once they've taken one they won't ever take the breast, but can be an issue although I think it's used as a lazy shorthand for issues caused by insufficient support offered around topping up, personally.

SarahAndQuack Sun 10-Jan-21 00:58:36


Very common for milk to come in on day 5-7 with c-section, even if no other traumatic factors are present. I don't know why this isn't included in standard BF info. I knew it, but I think I'd probably done quite a lot of reading around during pregnancy which maybe not everyone would do. It certainly causes self doubt and worry for a lot of mums and if topping up isn't handled carefully (which it hardly ever is in the NHS because nobody has the time or the training) it can exacerbate supply issues.

Bottle confusion isn't quite as drastic as once they've taken one they won't ever take the breast, but can be an issue although I think it's used as a lazy shorthand for issues caused by insufficient support offered around topping up, personally.

We were told this, delightfully, on day 8, by a lovely midwife in the mother-and-baby unit.

DP spent several days on the postnatal ward, which was hellish, and then a place came free in the unit (DD was on the wait lists for that and NICU). And suddenly there were midwives who had time and knowledge to talk about these things.

I'm absolutely not blaming individual midwives - but I think often the system is very stretched, and clearly some people don't get training about breastfeeding.

(Also YY about insufficient support around topping up.)

Lightsontbut Sun 10-Jan-21 00:59:29

I had v.v low milk with both of mine and also no enforcement, never leaked. Persevered for months and for a few weeks with my first was feeding her for about 6 hours a day and also pumping when she was asleep to try and get supply up. First was traumatic c section but easy vbac with second and it was the same. They were both so slow at feeding even off a bottle. Would take an hour daily per bottle and had v. Poor suck with lots of funny noises which other babies weren't making. They werent tongue tied but I always wondered how my boobs would have responded if a baby who knew what they were doing suckled. My nipples are flat too which lactation consultant said was not helping.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in