Breastfeeding: Overview

Image of woman breastfeeding her baby

An Overview of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is produced naturally by women and provides the basic nutrition for a baby during the first several months of life. Breast milk has three different and distinct stages: colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk. Visit with a Lactation Consultant to learn more about breastfeeding and breast milk.

Find a Lactation Consultant in Your Area


Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk. It occurs during pregnancy and lasts for several days after the birth of the baby. It is either yellowish or creamy in color. It is also much thicker than the milk that is produced later in breastfeeding.

Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that pass from the mother to the baby and provide passive immunity for the baby. Passive immunity protects the baby from a wide variety of bacterial and viral illnesses. Two to four days after birth, colostrum will be replaced by transitional milk.

Transitional milk

Transitional milk occurs after colostrum and lasts for approximately two weeks. The content of transitional milk includes high levels of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins.  It contains more calories than colostrum.

Mature milk

Mature milk is the final milk that is produced. 90% of it is water, which is necessary to keep the infant hydrated. The other 10% is comprised of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which are necessary for both growth and energy.

There are two types of mature milk:

Foremilk: This type of milk is found during the beginning of the feeding and contains water, vitamins, and protein.

Hind-milk: This type of milk occurs after the initial release of milk. It contains higher levels of fat, and is necessary for weight gain.

Both foremilk and hind-milk are necessary when breastfeeding to ensure the baby is receiving adequate nutrition to grow and develop properly. You might also be interested in taking a comprehensive breastfeeding supplement to help deliver vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are important for healthy and plentiful breast milk production.

As breast milk is considered a precious commodity, there are a number of products available designed to help save and help store milk for nursing mothers.

Last Updated: 08/2015

Compiled using information from the following sources: Olds, London, and Ladewig’s Maternal Newborn Nursing Melloni’s Illustrated Dictionary of Obstetrics and Gynecology