Perhaps you’ve heard of the magical properties of colostrum, but what is colostrum? How much does a newborn need? What’s the difference between breastmilk and colostrum?
A mother’s body is a really magical thing. From the moment of conception, your body and your baby are working in harmony building 10 trillion cells over the course of about 9 months. There is no scientific feat that can even come close to this (we can’t even grow 1 cell in a lab!) This magic doesn’t leave you once your baby is born and your body is preparing to nourish your baby even from the early weeks of pregnancy (which may show up as bigger, sore boobs and leaking milk...you’ve been there!)
What is Colostrum and What are its Benefits?
Colostrum is termed “liquid gold” and not just because of its color. Is colostrum yellow? Yes, it’s a sticky, honey-like liquid that is meant to nourish your newborn for their first few days of life. Colostrum is not like breastmilk in that it’s made in small quantities (but remember at birth your baby’s stomach is the size of a marble!) but is packed with antibodies and nutrients to innoculate your baby and feed their gut flora. Colostrum really is incredible and helps build your baby’s immune system and the benefits of colostrum are lifelong. Many immune and health benefits aren’t seen for years to come.
The baby’s gut flora starts in utero, but a baby is first inoculated with bacteria when delivered vaginally. The diversity and health of this gut bacteria is crucial for not only the first months of life but can set up the baby for lifelong health and vitality. (Luckily, for those babies born by cesarean section, there are options like vaginal seeding and probiotics formulated for infants and your baby will also pick up bacteria from around your nipples and from breastmilk as well). Colostrum plays a vital role in feeding the gut flora of a newborn as well as protecting mucous membranes like the lungs and gut.
Your Baby is Getting Enough
It may seem like your baby isn’t getting enough with the low volume of colostrum but it’s jam-packed with vitamins and minerals to help your baby thrive before your milk comes in. In fact, humans are the only mammal that are likely to survive without having colostrum.
Newborns will consume about a tsp of colostrum in the first 24 hours and yes, this is enough! You may make up to 4 tsp of colostrum every 24 hours but remember, that newborn's stomach is tiny and this is enough. Somewhere from days 2-5 the colostrum will transform into transitional milk.
What is transitional milk?
Transitional milk still has some properties of colostrum but is made in higher quantity and is protein and calorie-rich. When you experience your “milk coming in” around days 2-5, this is transitional milk and can still have a yellowish tinge. Transitional milk will be made for about 10-14 days at which time the milk is considered mature, is more watery and can even take on a white/blue color.
At first, you’ll likely notice your breasts feel full, perhaps to the point of discomfort as your body will take a few weeks to establish the right quantity for your baby. Remember that those first 5 days it is okay and normal for your baby to be eating only colostrum and no supplementation is needed. In fact, around day 3 you may notice your baby is fussy and crying more and some say the sound of a crying baby helps stimulate transitional milk (remember, your body can and is already producing breast milk).
In those first few days, everything can seem fresh and even scary (even if this isn’t your first baby!) but remember that your body is wise, allow your baby unlimited time at the breast and take pride in the fact that your body is nourishing your baby with one of the most powerful foods on the planet!
Curious about the next steps to nourishing your baby? Check out our Breastfeeding Guide for New Moms and The Importance of Nutrition While Breastfeeding for lactation support help, tips, and more information!
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