Updated: Sep 14, 2020
As you may notice sooner or later during pregnancy your mammary glands produce the first breast milk during pregnancy: the colostrum.
Colostrum is quite magical. Without knowing the needs and deficits of your baby it comes with all the nutrition to feed your baby. It is the first stage of breast milk.
The fluid looks different with every woman, it can be thick or thin, colourwise it usually looks yellowish because of the amounts of beta-carotene. Although some parents fear the breast does not produce enough for the baby, it produces way more than needed the first few days around birth, about 30ml the first day.
Colostrum contains so much nutrition that makes it magical in many ways. Those nutrients prevent the baby from having infections and diseases.
protein and low fat and sugar compared to mature breast milk
lots of antibodies for immunization
secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) found in colostrum to protect your baby's GI tract
natural laxative, which helps your infant move their bowels
During pregnancy, some women start to produce already at the end of the first trimester, you may notice some drops or yellowish stains in your bra. It will increase towards the end of pregnancy.
If you are concerned that you don't have enough breastmilk/colostrum or if you are interested in supporting the production, you can already start to express the colostrum during the end of pregnancy and preserve it in the fridge. It also increases your confidence in your body and your ability to nurture your baby.
Also, some women like to practice the hand-expression of breast milk for after the baby is born to help the breastfeeding going and get used to massage and touch your own breasts. If you got diagnosed with gestational diabetes or had a complicated delivery your baby may need some extra milk after birth to keep up the blood sugar. To keep breastfeeding going it helps if you already have some expressed colostrum/breastmilk close at hand, rather than using formula.
How to express colostrum
Some health practitioners had concerns about expressing colostrum during pregnancy and starting labour too early. Lots of studies show the advantages of early expressing, but not before 37 weeks of gestation. If touching your breasts and nipples hurt, please stop. Only the mother should do it by herself and only if it does not hurt !
This is how to massage your breast to express milk:
How to store it: Us a small food-safe storage container with secure lids. You can always ask your gynaecologist or midwife if the can recommend containers. Freeze the colostrum soon after expression, and put a sticker with the date and time on it. As newborns only need about 20-30 ml in the first two days, don't use large containers and don't express too much. Take the colostrum in a cool bag with you to the hospital or place where you give birth and tell them to freeze it till afterwards.
Thawed colostrum can only be used for 24 hours.
You can first start to express in the bath or shower. When you feel more comfortable doing it and already feel the milk coming, wash your hands before doing it and massage your breast to keep up the flow outside of the shower. Express from both breasts on after another directly into a container. You can express up to three times a day. Colostrum may be kept frozen for about 2 weeks
How long will colostrum last?
Colostrum only describes the very first breast milk, it only lasts for a few days. Usually, as soon as the amount of milk being produced increases, the mature breast milk starts. This happens around 4-6 days after birth. The mature breast milk still contains traces of colostrum, but now adjust to the needs of your baby.
Wait. Does the milk adjust???
YES! Breast milk adjusts to your baby's needs
From four weeks after birth, the content nutrition-wise remains fairly consistent. But the composition can still wary from day to day. Your body produces milk with particular antibodies to fight illnesses that your baby might have for example or protective bacteria-fighting enzymes to fight bacteria from the outside.
It adapts to changes of bacteria in the baby's mouth, which get in touch with the nipple and therefore the milk glands. Sooo nature is pretty awesome right?
stay safe, stay healthy and remember
it's not pain, but power!
your midwife Sarah