Colostrum is often thought of as separate milk to “breast milk.” In fact, colostrum is just the name of the first milk you make. As a result, it is still considered “breast milk.”
You may have heard names for your milk such as; colostrum, mature milk, fore milk, hind milk. Well, they are all breast milk! Let’s talk about what makes colostrum so amazing!
When is Colostrum Made?
Your breasts start to make colostrum anywhere from around 16 weeks of pregnancy and it will be there for the first few days after birth.
You may see your breasts actually leaking or perhaps they are not. It is nothing to worry about either way. We are all different!
Colostrum is most often a clear or yellowy colour. You may find that, during pregnancy, you wake up in the mornings with sticky dry patches around your nipple or areola. This will have been some colostrum leaking overnight and nothing to be alarmed about.
Colostrum is a Protective Force for Your Baby
Colostrum is considered the first immunity (or vaccination) your baby receives. Breast milk is high in protective antibodies and white blood cells, which destroy bacteria. It also has probiotics and prebiotics, none of which are found in infant formula milk.
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria and prebiotics are the food that feeds the good bacteria! Breastmilk helps the good bacteria colonise your baby’s gut, helping to prevent the bad bacteria from growing and causing illness.
Antibodies are made by mum when she comes into contact with bacteria (germs). Antibodies fight off the bacteria and also go into her breastmilk to help protect her baby.
As mum and baby spend so much time in close contact, surrounded by the same germs, this is a perfect system, which is always evolving to keep baby as safe as possible.
Understanding the Microbiome and Healthy Bacteria
Colostrum makes the cells in the baby’s intestines close together, which helps to stop germs getting inside a baby’s intestines and causing illness.
Colostrum is also packed full of hundreds of different types of “good” bacteria, each of which is there to do the job of protecting baby. It is really important for our gut to be colonised by healthy bacteria from as early as possible. This process starts even while your baby is growing inside you. During this time, your breast milk keeps topping up the numbers and diversity of good bacteria.
What we now know is that the living microorganisms (good bacteria) inside of us make up 1-3% of our total body mass. Studies have shown there can be over 100 trillion microorganisms in our bodies!
We are only just finding out how important it is for disease prevention and a healthy body and mind, for us to have our bodies full of good bacteria. This is important not only when we are babies but for the rest of our lives.
Colostrum Has a Laxative Effect
Colostrum has another purpose in the early days after birth; it helps your baby to poo!
Colostrum has a laxative effect on babies, which is great because the studies have shown us that when babies poo frequently in the first few days it helps with the excretion of excess bilirubin reducing the chance of baby developing jaundice.
Colostrum is Perfect for Your Baby’s Tummy Size
Colostrum is perfectly matched to the size of a newborn baby’s tummy!
On day one after birth mums produce about a teaspoon of colostrum. This fits perfectly into a newborns tummy, which is the size of a cherry. Yes, you guessed it, it holds about a teaspoon of milk!
Over the next few weeks, breastmilk volumes increase and stretch baby’s tummy gently to hold bigger and bigger quantities of breastmilk.
What Happens After Colostrum Ends?
After both baby and the placenta have been birthed, your body reduces the hormones of pregnancy. As a result, now start to make larger volumes of milk. This is often called “milk coming in” and it’s when you notice your milk increasing in volume.
Around this time, your milk will begin to look whiter in colour and eventually appear thinner too. This is all normal.
The colostrum gradually changes into mature milk over the first two weeks after birth. Mature milk will be in your breasts until you and your baby stop breastfeeding.
If you fall pregnant again, whilst breastfeeding, you will notice that the milk changes back to colostrum a short while before you give birth to your new baby! This makes sure there is colostrum ready for your newborn, but it does not mean your need to stop feeding your older child. There will be enough for both children! Our breasts really are amazing!
What breastfeeding questions do you have? How would you describe your breastfeeding journey? Join the conversation here on at the Medela Australia Facebook Page.