All About Colostrum and Why It’s Beneficial for Your Newborn
If you’ve heard the terms "first milk," "pre-milk," "early milk," or "practice milk," you may have wondered what they mean. They all refer to a form of breast milk called colostrum — a type of nutrient-rich milk that comes in before your regular breast milk.
Whether you’ve noticed colostrum leak onto your bra during pregnancy or you’re considering breastfeeding and want to know more, it’s helpful to understand what colostrum is, how long it lasts, and how much your newborn may need. Read on to find out all this, and more.
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is a highly concentrated form of breast milk that contains immune-boosting properties for your newborn. It’s packed with protein, salts, antibodies, and protective properties, all of which are beneficial for your baby. When compared with regular breast milk, colostrum is higher in protein but lower in sugar, fat, and calories.
If you're nursing your baby, the feeds you give your newborn in the first few days after she’s born would be of colostrum, before your regular breast milk starts flowing.
Breastfeeding moms may want to think of colostrum as their baby’s first meal — one that offers health benefits such as:
Helping to immunize your baby against harmful germs by coating his intestines, and helping to shield his immune system against germs
Providing some protection from inflammation and killing potentially harmful microorganisms
Having laxative properties that can help get meconium (your little one’s first stool) moving along, which can help lessen the chance of jaundice
Helping to prevent low blood sugar levels if your baby was born full term
Offering a nutritional boost to a baby born prematurely, as it can provide your preemie with extra nutrition.
What Does Colostrum Look Like?
Since it’s so concentrated, colostrum is thick and sticky. It may look orange, yellow, clear, or white in color.
Typically, it is yellowish because it contains beta-carotene (the same thing that makes carrots yellow), but if your colostrum is thinner and more watery, don’t worry — it’s normal for it to be a little different for every mom.
When Does Colostrum Come In?
An expectant mom's breasts may be ready to produce colostrum as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy or later in the second trimester. So don't be surprised if you see signs of leaking colostrum long before you’re due to give birth.
Leaking colostrum does not necessarily mean that labor is close. Although it may seem a little odd, it’s actually completely normal to leak a little breast milk during pregnancy.
Conversely, some moms-to-be don’t notice any signs of colostrum leaking during pregnancy, but this doesn’t mean that colostrum production isn’t happening. Behind the scenes, your breasts are getting prepped for breastfeeding — just one more way your body is getting ready for motherhood.
If you are leaking colostrum, you might want to buy some disposable or reusable breast pads that line your bra. These help absorb the liquid and protect your clothing.
How Long Does Colostrum Last?
Your body will typically produce colostrum for several days after the birth of your baby before this early milk transitions into regular breast milk.
After the initial two to five days of colostrum production, your breasts will begin to increase in size and feel firmer. This indicates that your milk supply is increasing and has started to transition from colostrum to regular breast milk — a process that happens over a few weeks.
How Much Colostrum Does a Newborn Baby Need?
New moms may produce anywhere from 10 to 100 milliliters of colostrum per day. Typically, though, it’s around 30 milliliters or about an ounce a day, which is right around the amount that your baby needs. But don’t worry if you’re producing less than this amount — any amount is good for your baby. As your breasts transition into producing more milk than colostrum, your baby’s stomach will also expand to accept more milk.
For more on breastfeeding in general, check out these breastfeeding tips. And if you're concerned about your milk supply, consult your healthcare provider for advice. You can also read this article on increasing breast milk production.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Colostrum is important in so many ways for your baby. It's the perfect first meal for a newborn, fortifying her with antibodies for a beneficial jump-start in life.
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