Many cultures have considered —and some still do— that colostrum is useless or bad and should therefore be avoided. In these cases, the baby is left for several hours, sometimes days, without eating anything at all or is fed with traditional preparations.
But nothing could be further from the truth, since colostrum is a unique food adapted to the specific needs of a newborn baby.
Colostrum begins to occur between 12-16 weeks of pregnancy and sometimes its presence is visible but sometimes not, and this fact is not of any importance nor does it determine the course of future lactation or milk production that the mother will have. It is more common to observe the presence of colostrum in the second pregnancy, since the breast after a first lactation is much more prepared.
When a baby is born, colostrum is enough. The first function of colostrum for the baby is that of protection and the second, feeding. Therefore, a baby should be taking small amounts, 8 to 12 times a day, of colostrum for about seventy-two hours.
The quantities are always minimal and perfectly adapted to the stomach capacity of the baby. As the baby swallows colostrum, it covers his intestinal mucous and protects him from infection. Usually, newborns are anxious and demanding, want to be attached to the nipple and breastfeed continuously. This “work” that the baby does guarantees the arrival of the transition milk, which is the milk that precedes the mature milk, and the good establishment of lactation and should not be interpreted as a lack of food.
What is colostrum like?
Colostrum is visibly different from mature milk, it is yellow or orange in colour as it is saturated with vitamins, especially beta-carotene which has an antioxidant effect on baby’s cells.
But the most distinctive feature of colostrum is its unique composition that makes it look a lot like blood, it is an immune cocktail, a special and unique first vaccine.
Colostrum also prevents the adhesion of pathogens and coats the gastric mucous with a protective layer that prevents bacteria from penetrating it. Colostrum is full of living cells that work to protect the newborn. These cells transmit immunological information from mother to child and therefore offer protection both in the short term and in adulthood. It has been scientifically proven that in the case of an organ transplant between mother and child, if the child was breastfed, there is a better chance that the transplant will be a success, since the recipient’s body “recognizes” that organ as its own and does not attack it.
Colostrum has high amounts of sodium, potassium, chloride and cholesterol that have the function of stimulating optimal growth of the heart, central nervous system and brain.
Colostrum also has many more proteins than mature milk, which have an important task of protection, nutrition, and also control the baby’s blood sugar levels. This is especially important for babies who have difficulty maintaining their glycemias.
Lactoferrin is a protein present in colostrum, with antibacterial and antifungal activity, appears in the urine of children who have taken it, and it seems that this way the urinary system is also protected against infections that usually affect newborns very easily.
When does colostrum stop being produced?
Usually, the mother produces colostrum during the first 48 to 72 hours after the birth of the baby. If, far from this period of time, we still produce colostrum it may be significant that something may be interfering with our milk production and it will be advisable to see a gynecologist.
Can I pump colostrum?
There may be different situations where a mother needs to express colostrum for her baby. If this is the case, the most recommended and practical method is manual extraction.
And can I express colostrum during pregnancy?
Yes, in some circumstances it is even advisable to express colostrum during pregnancy. Having a small reserve of this prenatal colostrum can be very helpful to administer to the baby in the first hours after birth, especially when, for example, the mother suffers from gestational diabetes.
Colostrum is, in short, a treasure, yellow gold, which is served in the right measure at the right time to ensure the best protection and the best diet.