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Colostrum FAQs: Health Benefits and Other Key Facts

The very first breast milk you produce for your new baby is called colostrum. But exactly what is it and why is it so special? Also, how much colostrum does your newborn need? Here’s Flo’s complete guide to what’s often referred to as “liquid gold”.

Colostrum

Possessing a unique golden hue and an array of health benefits, colostrum is the very first breast milk that a mother makes. 

Colostrum has a thick consistency and may begin production as early as your third trimester of pregnancy. This continues through the first few days after childbirth. Experts recommend that you start breastfeeding with colostrum within an hour of delivery.

Aside from feeding and nourishing your little one, it also protects them. It’s the ideal food for newborns in the early days of life, and should be provided instead of formula or other liquids whenever possible.

Since colostrum production usually begins at some point in your third trimester, you can actually prepare for breastfeeding by harvesting colostrum before delivery. 

Collecting colostrum in advance means you’ll have a small supply in case your newborn needs it. Others find the practice helps them enjoy breastfeeding more, since hand expressing allows you to familiarize yourself with the way it’s going to feel.

Since colostrum production usually begins at some point in your third trimester, you can actually prepare for breastfeeding by harvesting colostrum before delivery.

Consider consulting your doctor about harvesting colostrum. It may be contraindicated in certain cases, especially if you’ve experienced preterm labor in the past. While you’re there, ask any other questions you may have about breastfeeding. That way, you’ll know what to expect during the first few days at home, and which medications are safe to take when breastfeeding.

Colostrum lasts until the transitional stage of breast milk sets in, approximately two to five days after childbirth. Expect to see increased milk production — especially if you follow a healthy breastfeeding diet. Also note that you’re likely to notice a little colostrum mixed in with mature breast milk.

A baby eating colostrum

Colostrum is a very thick, concentrated substance, so your baby only needs a small amount at each feeding. Approximately 1 teaspoon of colostrum should be sufficient at mealtime. 

During their first few days, newborns typically get hungry every hour or so. As your breasts start producing mature breast milk, they’ll need fewer (though longer) feedings. Your baby’s stomach is constantly increasing in size, gradually requiring greater quantities of milk.

Colostrum is a very thick, concentrated substance, so your baby only needs a small amount at each feeding.

Breastfeeding is a self-sustaining process, and the more often your child feeds, the more their sucking will stimulate your milk production. Furthermore, the skin-to-skin contact you enjoy at mealtime encourages bonding.

Colostrum is chock full of nutrients, natural antibodies, and growth factors that generate tissue repair.

Colostrum components are vital to your baby’s growth and passive immunity (i.e., the process of acquiring your antibodies). This helps prevent infections and contributes to the development of a strong immune system.

Colostrum aids in maintaining a robust microbiome inside a baby’s gut, which is sterile at birth.

Growth factors in colostrum have regenerative effects which heal all structural cells inside the human body. It’s also an efficient form of nutrient delivery, since it provides high concentrations in a very small amount of milk.

There are other ways colostrum can help your little one get off to a good start in life. It aids in maintaining a robust microbiome inside their gut, which is sterile at birth. The gut microbiome is composed of different types of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa crucial to the functioning of your digestive system. That’s why colostrum is absolutely essential to your child’s nutrition, immunity, and overall health. It staves off the development of many chronic illnesses, ranging from metabolic disease to gastrointestinal disorders to colorectal cancer.

The benefits of colostrum have been widely appreciated for more than a century, as it was once used to treat bacterial infections before antibiotics were discovered.

Compared to mature breast milk, colostrum contains a higher percentage of protein and fewer carbohydrates and fat. Minerals including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, among others, are also present. These nutrients deliver a boost of energy, while simultaneously fostering growth and development. 

The benefits of colostrum have been widely appreciated for more than a century, as it was once used to treat bacterial infections before antibiotics were discovered. Colostrum is even being studied as a possible therapeutic option in the treatment of several diseases.

A powerful substance that’s clearly brimming with goodness, colostrum can do countless things for your baby, including:

  • Aid in the development of a strong, healthy immune system
  • Act as a laxative when they pass their first dark stool (or meconium)
  • Provide the perfect amount of nutrients for their nervous system, brain, eyes, heart, and muscles to develop properly
  • Prevent neonatal jaundice
  • Keep your newborn’s blood sugar levels from dipping too low 

Lastly, colostrum is easily broken down by your baby’s digestive system and put to good use.

It’s really no wonder that colostrum is thought of as liquid gold. This nutrient-rich substance powers your baby’s immune system, and provides everything they need to adjust to life outside of the womb.

Even though your body won’t produce large quantities of colostrum, every little drop will help ensure your child becomes a strong, healthy individual. So as soon as your little bundle of joy first enters the world, be sure to offer them the amazing benefits of colostrum.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513256/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531702003731

http://www.foodandnutritionjournal.org/volume1number1/colostrum-its-composition-benefits-as-a-nutraceutical-a-review/

https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/world_breastfeeding_week/en/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-first-days/

https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/boost-infant-health-with-breast-milk-before-birth

https://www.uhs.nhs.uk/Media/Controlleddocuments/Patientinformation/Pregnancyandbirth/Harvesting-colostrum-for-your-baby-maternity-information.pdf

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