Colostrum: Your Baby’s Magical First Meal
What if I told you that there was an immunity-boosting, nutrient-packed superfood that helps newborns thrive…and it did not cost anything. And, in fact, your body automatically makes this super-powered substance. It’s not magic…it’s colostrum!
What is colostrum?
You probably know that it takes two to four days for breastmilk to come in after giving birth. That is the usual time it takes from the first suckle to having your breasts become full of milk. So, it the milk has not come in, yet, what the heck is your baby slurping down on day one? Ah…that is the very precious—liquid gold—called colostrum.
When do you produce colostrum?
A pregnant person’s body begins brewing colostrum during the second half of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, it is possible you have already noticed a tiny amount of yellowish substance oozing out of your nipple in the shower or in your bra. (The old term for that is 'witch’s milk.')
How is colostrum different from breast milk?
Colostrum is an incredible superfood, packed with nutrients, antibodies, and even with white blood cells to give tender vulnerable babies a huge boost of protection against the outside world of germs and microbes. Unlike mature breastmilk, which is thin and watery, colostrum is thick, sticky and yellow or cream coloured. (Note: The yellow colour comes from carotene, the nutrient that gives carrots their colour.)
What are the benefits of colostrum?
Colostrum is a perfect first meal for your baby, delivering a powerful combination of carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies in a small, easy-to-digest amount. Amazingly, the breasts also mix huge amounts of illness fighting white blood cells into the colostrum, which is why it is sometimes referred to as 'white blood.' With every swallow of colostrum, this special pre-milk flows down into your baby’s stomach and intestine to coat it with a tiny army of protective antibodies and cells.
Additional colostrum benefits:
And, if that was not incredible enough, colostrum has even more benefits for baby’s health and development! It:
- protects the mucous membranes in the throat and lungs
- is a laxative, helping baby push out the sticky meconium (aka your lovebug’s first poo)
- helps prevent jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) by clearing out the meconium
- boosts the growth of 'good' bacteria—probiotics—in your baby’s digestive tract
- feeds your baby’s brain, eyes, and heart for optimal growth
- helps prevent low blood sugar in full-term babies
Colostrum benefits for pre-term babies:
And for pre-term babies, colostrum can be a literal lifesaver. Colostrum helps get a pre-term baby’s immature digestive tract ready to handle food, and it is much better tolerated than infant formula.
When should my baby start eating colostrum?
Babies are born with a strong instinct to suck, so it is a good idea to offer your baby the breast within an hour or so of giving birth. Babies are often pretty sleepy on that first day, but when your little one is awake, offering the breast every hour gives little sips of colostrum and stimulates your milk production to bring the mature milk. Early nursing also benefits mums by signaling the uterus to contract, reducing maternal blood loss.
Do not worry if the volume of colostrum seems small. Your body produces exactly what your baby needs. A newborn’s stomach is quite small, so several spoons of colostrum per day is plenty.
Although newborn babies only need tiny 'meals,' they do need to eat often (eight to 12 times a day).
How long will I produce colostrum?
There are three stages of breastmilk production, and the colostrum stage is short and sweet:
- Colostrum: Produced exclusively for the first 2-5 days after birth.
- Transitional milk: A combination of colostrum and breastmilk that lasts a few weeks.
- Mature breastmilk: It comes in between 2 and 4 weeks. It is 90% water, and the rest is carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Even after your milk has come in, there will still be small traces of colostrum in your milk for up to six weeks postpartum. This is the most important food you can give your baby!
[Read More: Breastmilk and Breastfeeding]
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.