Colostrum is the first milk your baby gets. Most women will start producing it a few weeks before their babies are born, but some don’t ever notice any leakage during pregnancy. Even if you don’t intend to breastfeed your baby fully or at all, allowing your baby to have the very first few days of human milk will be so beneficial to their health. If you don’t feel comfortable putting your baby to the breast, you can always start to express your colostrum a couple of weeks before the baby is due (no sooner than 37 weeks, as this could cause you to go into labour). You can store it in the freezer, and then give it to your newborn later via a syringe or a spoon.
Colostrum is thick and sticky, and has a yellowish tinge to it. You won’t produce very much colostrum in those first few days, but your body will produce exactly how much your baby needs. After 3-4 days, the colostrum will change to mature breast milk. Nursing frequently (at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period — every couple of hours or more) will ensure that the supply of mature breastmilk will be plentiful when it arrives.
So why is colostrum so magical? What are its benefits?
1. It’s Packed With Antibodies
Your newborn baby is extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases during the first couple weeks of life. All breastmilk contains antibodies created by the mothers’ body, but colostrum is absolutely jam-packed with them. If someone comes to visit you and your baby in the hospital and brings their stinking cold with them, the antibodies created by you will be passed straight on to your baby through your colostrum, therefore protecting them from the illness.
2. It’s Highly Nutritious
Colostrum is low in fat, and highly concentrated in carbohydrates and protein. It’s perfect for tiny little immature tummies as the volume of colostrum is low in comparison to mature milk. A 1 day old baby’s tummy only has the capacity for a few millilitres of milk.
3. It Has A Laxative Effect
A newborn baby’s digestive system is brand spanking new. Colostrum is a mild laxative, which helps the intestines and tummy kick into gear and start working as it should. Often, babies that are formula fed exclusively from birth will suffer from constipation in these first few days; they receive too much in volume of milk from a bottle and the milk doesn’t have the same poop-inducing qualities that colostrum does.
4. It ‘Seals’ The Digestive System
This is a little-known fact about colostrum; when a baby is first born, the walls of its digestive tract are very porous. Colostrum ‘seals’ these permeable surfaces which prevents foreign substances from entering. This could reduce the incidence of babies becoming sensitive to foods that the mother has eaten.
5. It Helps Prevent Jaundice
Many babies suffer from jaundice. It is caused by the liver not being mature enough to process excess bilirubin in the body. Due to the laxative effect of colostrum that we have already discussed, it helps the baby expel its first bowel movements which in turn helps rid the body of some excess bilirubin.