Colostrum is the earliest breastmilk produced, beginning in mid-pregnancy (12-18 weeks) and is continually produced for the first few days after baby’s birth. It is thick, sticky, concentrated milk and is usually yellow, clear or white, although it could be other colors as well. It is made up of immune factors, protein, sugar, and fats.
The Colostrum Benefits for Your Newborn:
Within minutes after your baby is born, breastfeeding can begin. Though all infants benefit from colostrum, preterm infants who intake colostrum from the mother’s breast have “significantly better health outcomes” than those who do not.
- Helps your baby build a strong immune system (contains antibodies and white blood cells).
- Creates a tough coating on your baby’s stomach & intestines to keep germs from causing illness and prevent inflammation.
- Acts as a laxative to help your baby pass meconium (the dark first poop).
- Helps prevent jaundice and gets rid of harmful waste products. Learn more about breastfeeding and jaundice.
- Gives your baby’s brain, eyes and heart the right blend of nutrients to grow.
- Contains high levels of protein, salts, fats, and vitamins for complete nutrition.
- Complete nutrition that your baby’s stomach can easily digest. It’s the perfect food for your newborn.
- Helps to prevent low blood sugar in newborns.
How Much is Enough?
It is normal to make only 1-4 teaspoons of colostrum per day. Remember, your baby’s stomach may only be the size of a marble, so a large feeding may look small. Learning to suck and swallow milk is easier in small amounts. If your baby cannot nurse at first, hand express the colostrum so it can be fed to your baby. Hand expressing colostrum generally yields more volume than using a breast pump in the early hours.
The amount of colostrum you are making is just right for your baby. The amount your baby drinks will increase each day. Your milk supply will increase as your baby’s stomach grows so be sure to breastfeed your baby as often as he or she desires to help your milk supply start and remain strong.
When Do I Stop Producing Colostrum?
Your body will produce colostrum exclusively for about 2-5 days after birth. After this, “transitional milk” takes over – this is a mix of colostrum and more mature milk.
By the time transitional milk is expressed, your newborn’s stomach has begun stretching and can now intake more milk at a time.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Hanson, L., Korotkonva, M., The Importance of Colostrum, Breastfeeding May Boost baby’s Own Immune System. (2002). Pediatric Infectious Disease Jour; 21:816-821.
2. Dionna. (2010). The Composition on Human Milk Part 1. Attachment Parenting.
3. O’Conner, M.,(1998). Anatomy and Physiology: Milk Composition.
4. Spangler, A., Randenberg, A., Brenner, M., Howette, M., (2008). Belly Models as Teaching Tools: What is Their Utility? Journal Of Human Lactation. May 2008, vol 24; no 2.
5. La Leche League, International. Colostrum: General.