Breast milk adapts to the baby’s needs at all stages of breastfeeding. When feedings become less frequent, the breasts produce less and less milk. The amount of protein contained in breast milk slowly decreases, while fat and lactose content increases. Moreover, the amount of immunoglobulins, which prepare the baby’s immune system for weaning, goes up. This final type of milk is called involutional milk. By the time involutional milk is produced, the baby is usually psychologically and physically ready to be weaned.
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What is involutional breast milk?
Involutional Breast Milk (IBM) refers to the milk produced during the initial stages of lactation when the baby suckles at your breasts for comfort. IBM may be present for as little as a few hours or it may last a few days or longer. You may be able to recognize the characteristics of IBM by its different characteristics such as its sticky consistency and warm temperature. Breastfeeding experts recommend you wait until your breasts produce a normal supply before introducing solids into your child’s diet, although it is not essential to wait until then
Characteristics of Involutional Breast Milk
Involutional Breast Milk is warm
You may notice that the milk in your breasts feels warm to the touch and is often warmer than usual. This may be due to the fact that it has not yet had time to cool off after being expelled from the breast.
Involutional Breast Milk smells
The smell of your breastmilk changes as you progress through lactation. If you have not been able to identify a particular smell yet, this can change once your supply increases and other smells become more apparent. For example, as your supply increases, milk with different tastes and smells can appear at the same time.
Involutional Breast Milk is sticky
When you place your hand over your breasts and gently squeeze the fleshy area between them, you will notice a thick, sticky fluid (not blood) oozing out.
The consistency of Involutional Breast Milk is similar to that of amniotic fluid when you are pregnant. It can be quite sticky, much like warm honey and it will sometimes clump together in places on your breast if you move it around with your finger or a spoon (as opposed to sliding off). You may also notice that milk in your breasts feels slightly sticky when you are rubbing them together after nursing. This is normal for the first few days of breastfeeding and does not indicate a problem.
It is important that you wean your baby gradually. This way, you will avoid milk stagnation and won’t deprive your baby of many beneficial nutrients.