What You Need to Know About Colostrum

Breastfeeding is probably one of the most important aspects of newborn care. The WHO recommends mothers start breastfeeding their baby within an hour of birth and continue it for 6 months exclusively.

Breastfeeding on the whole has uncountable benefits for both the mother and the baby. So it’s important to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding to help you along your journey. Mothers produce three different types of milk over the course of breastfeeding. The first milk is called Colostrum, and it’s filled with a ton of its own benefits that we want to go over today! 

What is Colostrum?

Like we mentioned, colostrum is the first type of breast milk you produce, and it actually starts producing during your pregnancy before your baby is even born, sometimes as early as 16 weeks! However, this milk won’t be expressed until after your baby is born. Some mothers might have slight leakage at 28 weeks, but this is not a cause to worry.

Colostrum varies from normal breast milk in terms of consistency and composition. Colostrum is more yellowish and has a higher composition of nutrients and antioxidants that play an important role in a baby’s health and nutrition.

It has a higher content of protein and lower content of fat and sugar compared to normal breastmilk. It also has immune cells that produce antibodies and aid in the baby’s immunity formation.

Colostrum is high in carotenoids, vitamin A, magnesium, copper, and zinc. All of which makes colostrum a nutrient-dense feed for the baby, even in small doses! This is why you may have heard of it referred to as “liquid gold.”

Why is it called Liquid Gold?

Colostrum gets that name due to its yellowish-golden color and the valuable role it plays in a baby’s initial nutrition. 

Here are some of the benefits colostrum has:

  • Boosts immunity due to its high concentration of IgA
  • Prevents gut infection and diarrhea with the help of a protein called lactoferrin, which also regulates iron absorption in the body
  • Improves the baby’s gut health
  • Helps improve gut motility and clearance of meconium
  • Helps prevent jaundice 

How long do I produce Colostrum?

Colostrum is usually only produced for the initial 2-4 days after delivery. 

After this, your breasts will feel fuller and the color and consistency of milk will change to a thinner, whiter kind. This is when you’re transitioning to regular breastmilk and will no longer produce colostrum until your next pregnancy.

If you want to learn more about the different types of breastmilk, what to expect, how to maintain milk supply, and so much more, consider signing up for our Breastfeeding: A Great Start class with lactation expert Jennifer Chivas, BSN, IBCLC.