Colostrum is, in short – miraculous. This Liquid Gold is truly and wholly one of the most amazing substances the human body can make. But what is it? Really? And why is it so good for your baby?
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum, also know as Early Milk, First Milk, Beestings and Bisnings is a type of thick, sticky fluid most mammals start making during late pregnancy and for the next few days after the delivery of the placenta. The color can range from clear to yellow and even orangish in appearance. The human body produces small amounts of this miraculous substance measuring, on average, about 37ml per 24hrs. To put that in perspective – 30ml is an ounce!
This small amount is perfect though, as a newborn’s tummy is INCREDIBLY small! And a newborn’s stomach does NOT stretch – Zangenet al (2001) found that a newborn’s stomach is firm and remains so until around Day 3.
Day 1: 5-7 ml Roughly the size of a cherry or a shooter marble. (Please note: The 5 – 7ml size is an accepted and taught estimate, though when researching this article, I did find some discrepancy and questioning of this. Regardless, I am still including it here as the amount of Colostrum produced is small and correlates per nature and need to the average size of a newborn tummy.)
Day 3: 22 – 27ml Which roughly equates to the size of a ping pong ball or a walnut.
One Week: 45 – 60ml This can be visualized as either an apricot or a plum.
One Month: 80 – 150ml Imagine a large chicken egg.
What’s in Colostrum?
Viscous and sticky, colostrum contains a plethora of nutrients for your just born baby. According to “Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultant’s Guide, Fifth Edition” Colostrum is made up of:
- Minerals (rich in sodium, potassium and chloride)
- Fat Droplets
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins
- Cast-of Alveolar Cells (which serve both a nutritional and immunologic need)
- Antibodies: Highly concentrated in IgA, IgG and IgM. Of these, IgA is the most concentrated in colostrum and human milk and is not found in artificial baby milks. A baby cannot produce this immuno globulin themselves until around 6 months of age.
- Antimicrobial Peptides: Lactoferrin and Lacto Peroxidase
- Other particles and substances that are just now being defined and studied by science.
What Makes Colostrum so Special?
Day by day, science is coming closer to understanding the miracle that is Human Milk. Just last year a study was preformed that proved the presence of Stem Cells in Human Milk! And Colostrum is another part of that research. While considered Human Milk, in fact – the First Milk – it’s very composition sets it apart from more mature milk. It is steeped in nutrients and disease fighting properties, the kind that seem designed to help seal a Newborn’s open stomach and bowel, prevent infection and stimulate the entire body for life outside the womb.
Lacking the higher fat content and significant carbohydrate count of more mature milk, one can only presume that the entire function of Colostrum – which, as already stated, is produced in small quantities – is aimed at improving the health and well-being of the newborn, as opposed to just nutrition. It certainly has nutritional value, there is no doubt, yet the sheer volume of Immune factors and antibodies inherent give credence to the notion that this is, in fact, natures way of offering a vaccine.
I firmly believe that breastfeeding is a personal choice, one that encompasses many factors – some of which the mother may not wish to divulge. All that said, I do encourage every mother, even those that wish to go on to formula feed, to provide their newborn with their colostrum. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving.
Breast to mouth nursing is the best way to feed colostrum, yet for those unable or adverse, pumping or hand expression are also viable options. Your Doctor, Midwife, Doula, Lactation Consultant or Nurse can tell you more.
You can also bring up any concerns that you have in your Breastfeeding Basics Class – your instructor should be able to expound on the benefits of Colostrum, as well as alternative methods for feeding if you so choose. Uncertain if you should take a class? Here’s more information.