Colostrum Photos and Info by Mama Natural

Colostrum: The Mind-Blowing Superfood for Your Baby

Have you heard of the term “Liquid Gold”? No, I’m not talking about Velveeta. (Eww!) I’m also not talking about bone broth (although you could argue that it’s liquid gold too). Or even my Golden Milk recipe.

What I’m talking about is colostrum, baby’s very first food. This special breast milk is far superior to any superfood we may find in an Amazon jungle, and in this post, I’ll explain why.

What is colostrum exactly?

Maybe you’ve never heard of colostrum, or maybe you’re not quite sure what it is. Colostrum doesn’t get the same attention that breast milk does, but it really should—it’s truly the rockstar! This precursor to breast milk and is stored and expelled in and through the breast.

It’s light yellow, gold, or sometimes clear in color, and is a thick, creamy liquid. And wow, is it packed with amazing properties that protect and nourish your baby in his first days of life!

“Colostrum is rich in immunologic components such as secretory IgA, lactoferrin, leukocytes, as well as developmental factors such as epidermal growth factor. Colostrum also contains relatively low concentrations of lactose, indicating its primary functions to be immunologic and trophic rather than nutritional. Levels of sodium, chloride and magnesium are higher and levels of potassium and calcium are lower in colostrum than later milk.” (source)

Colostrum is so special, in fact, that it’s sold in supplement form for adults and has been prized for its health benefits by many cultures—primarily in India—for thousands of years. (source)

When will I begin to produce colostrum?

It varies from woman to woman. Some moms start producing colostrum as early as the first trimester. More commonly, women start producing it in the third trimester. If you’re later on in your pregnancy, you can squeeze your breast (or express) and watch some liquid gold emerging from your nipple.

But don’t worry if you don’t see any fluid yet. It’s not until after the placenta is expelled that the true hormonal shift signals the breasts to begin lactating—and produce colostrum. And it makes sense, as this enables your baby to start feeding immediately after birth. (source)

How long will I produce colostrum?

For the first 2–5 days after birth, your body will produce only colostrum, later switching over to regular breast milk. While each woman’s body is different, colostrum tends to stick around closer to 5 days.

The next stage is called “transitional milk,” and this lasts for 10–14 days. Transitional milk is a blend of colostrum and breast milk, which will eventually be replaced by regular (and thinner) breast milk. (source)

I doesn’t feel like I’m feeding baby enough!

Your breasts won’t feel very full for baby’s first feeding, and it may seem like your newborn isn’t getting enough.

Since baby’s stomach is only about the size of a marble right after birth, she really doesn’t need much to fill her up and meet her nutritional needs. Plus, colostrum is super concentrated, so a little goes a long way!

Keep in mind that most moms produce only about an ouncewithin the first 24 hours. This is actually the perfect amount though, as baby only needs about 1–1.5 teaspoons of this liquid gold per feeding.

Should I supplement?

No. Not unless you absolutely have to.

Instead of focusing on how fast baby feeds or how full your breasts feel, monitor baby’s diapers and overall mood. If baby’s wetting at least 6 diapers a day and seems content, you are doing well.

You also want to make sure you’re nursing baby at least 8 times a day to ensure he’s getting all the wonderful benefits of this special milk.

Of course, always check in with your midwife or pediatrician if you’re concerned. Even better, make an appointment with a lactation consultant. Sometimes lactation consultants are better versed in knowing when it’s necessary to supplement with formula vs. when it’s not needed.

Be sure to make your desires known to the hospital staff as they may supplement with or without your consent.

Easier to establish a latch

There’s always a bit of a breastfeeding learning curve for both mama and baby the first few days, even if it’s not your first time at the rodeo. (Breastfeeding gets easier, so stick with it!)

Since your body doesn’t produce a lot of colostrum, the breasts aren’t very full the first few days. This makes it much easier for your baby to establish a latch immediately after birth, and sets her up for good breastfeeding habits long-term. Our bodies are pretty smart, huh?!

How is colostrum different than breastmilk?

Colostrum is richer than breast milk and has a different nutritional profile. In regards to composition, colostrum actually has more in common with blood than it does with breast milk since it’s chock-full of white blood cells and immune-boosting properties. This liquid gold is also higher in protein, and lower in sugar and fat, so it’s an easy first food to digest.

Breast milk is designed to sustain your baby, build the immune system, and contribute to development long-term. Colostrum, however, is more like, “hit it hard and fast.” One study even showed that it is much higher than breast milk in cell-defending antioxidants. (source)

Here are two charts on the composition of colostrum

Growth FactorsHuman ColostrumBovine Colostrum
Epidermal growth factor (EGF)200 mcg/L30-50 mcg/L
Transforming growth factor (TGF α)2.2-7.2 mcg/L2.2-7.2 mcg/L
TGF β20-40 mg/L1-2 mg/L
Insulin like growth factor (VEGF)18 mg/L10 mg/L
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)75 mcg/LNA
Growth hormone (GH)41 ng/L<0.03 ng/L

 

Compositions (g/L)Human colostrumHuman breast milkCow’s milk
Total protein 23 11 31
Immunoglobulins190.11
Fat304538
Lactose577147
Calcium0.50.31.4
Phosphorus 0.160.140.90
Sodium0.500.150.41

 

Is colostrum good for my baby?

No, colostrum isn’t good for your baby—it’s actually freaking fantastic for your baby! This perfect first food contains essential nutritional components that really help prime your baby for a healthy life. It’s truly a unique substance, with properties that no other food has.

Make colostrum a priority

It’s a good idea to make sure your baby gets colostrum if you can, even if you aren’t planning on breastfeeding, or if you end up supplementing later. If drugs were used during labor and delivery, or if you had an epidural, this can make baby lethargic and impair immediate nursing. If your baby can’t nurse right away for whatever reason, you can always express by hand and finger feed baby. The benefits are well worth it.

This pregnant mama was leaking colostrum, so what did she do?

A pregnant mama posted this info on my Facebook page – love it!

I am 29 weeks pregnant and have been leaking a ton of colostrum since week 16! At my last appointment my midwife suggested that I collect the colostrum (without pumping) and freeze it for when baby’s born! She said she did the same thing and it helped her son out a lot when he was born with low blood sugars. Beginning my stash now!! ^_^

I never thought to save it, I’m sure others would love to do the same if they are leaking liquid gold too lol!

Also I was told that it will only last 3-4 months in a regular freezer so I wasn’t advised to start saving it until the third trimester.

Collect colostrum and freeze for when baby is born

Okay, ready for those mind-blowing colostrum benefits?

1. Seals the gut

Babies are born with a permeable gut lining, making them more susceptible to infections and diseases without the proper care. Colostrum enters the blood stream through this lining, and then helps to plug those gut holes so to speak, paving the way for breast milk to finish the job. This process helps to prevent food allergies and other leaky gut issues later in life, like asthma, allergies, ADD, eczema, and more.

According to some lactation consultants, this sealing of the gut is so important that it’s better for an infant to have only colostrum in those first several days and then switch to formula for the remaining year than to supplement with formula in the first few days (even in combination with colostrum) and then switch to exclusive breastfeeding for one year and beyond. 

2. Clears the digestive tract

The first bowel movement your baby has is called meconium, a thick, greenish tar-like substance. While conventional formula infamously constipates a baby, colostrum helps flush out the digestive tract and expel the meconium. This also helps to prevent jaundice, as the colostrum flushes out excess bilirubin that causes the condition.

3. Immune prep

Colostrum contains white blood cells, antibodies, and immunoglobulins that prime your baby’s immune system. One of these, immunoglobulin A, is an antibody that protects against infection of the throat, lungs, and intestines.

In fact, colostrum was the go-to for immune support before the discovery of penicillin and modern antibiotics. (source) And its pH levels encourage the growth of good bacteria.

4. Regulates bodily functions

For 9 months, your baby has been in a protective cocoon in your womb, shielded from the outside world. Once birth occurs though, it takes some time before their body is able to fully regulate itself. Colostrum helps the infant adapt by regulating body temperature, the vascular system, glucose metabolism, and lung function, and helps maintain fluid homeostasis.

This makes early breastfeeding especially important for c-section babies. And when these first feedings are done with skin-to-skin contact, your chest also regulates baby’s body temperature and heartbeat better than an incubation machine. (source)

5. Repairs the body

Colostrum is the only known natural source of two important growth factors, alpha and beta, and insulin-like growth factors 1 and 2. These unique substances not only help a baby’s little body to grow properly, but it also helps repair it in times of stress or trauma. These growth factors are phenomenal at their stellar ability to grow and repair muscles, cartilage, and the skeletal system. (source)

6. Natural immunization

Since colostrum begins to seal the gut lining in preparation for breast milk and solid foods later on, it acts as a natural immunization. This prevents germs and other unwanted substances from entering the bloodstream and causing sickness at a time when babies are most vulnerable.

Does my diet affect colostrum?

We are what we eat, so the food choices we make also affect colostrum composition. A mama’s diet has been shown to alter the healthy fats and vitamin content in colostrum. This study tracked fatty acid composition changes in colostrum and breastmilk, while this study found that mothers given excess amounts of vitamin A actually saw more than a 16% decrease in colostrum vitamin E levels.

It’s all about balance

All this to say, that a healthy, balanced diet that’s full of healing foods like saturated animal fats and fresh produce are beneficial for both mama and baby. Healthy fats—like grass-fed butter and ghee, coconut oil, and raw milk—are important to include in your diet for optimal milk composition and to repair your body after the stress of birth.

Sometimes dairy products, even when raw and from a good source, can cause digestive issues in sensitive babies, so be mindful of this and make changes as needed.

Supermom? Yes. Yes you are.

Our bodies are amazingly and intricately designed to support not only ourselves, but our baby’s life. Colostrum is truly a liquid wonder that helps us all be supermoms!

  1. The subject matter has been described well in detail. Title superfood is excellent.
    As a past student of animal husbandry, we have studied the difficulty of letting down by cow; especially in tropical countries. The function of the pituitary gland playing a role can be emphasized in humans as well? Unauthorized use of oxytocin is in practice in some countries. However, I have suggested to splash udder with chilled water also can activate overall letting down process. I don’t know how important this matter find the place here? Kindly ignore if it is out of subject.

  2. Hi, a quick question please, apologies in advance for confusion. I have very successfully fed all of my five children with a few hiccups but nothing I thought wasn’t manageable. My questions really is for someone else, it relates to colostrum and milk protein allergy, is it possible for 2 day old baby to display symptoms of same? My gut feeling is no, but I can’t find anything that gives me an answer either way. I personally think cows milk protein allergy is over diagnosed especially in recent years pushing mums to use formula that is already broken down.

    • I’ve honestly never heard of babies having an issue with colostrum.

  3. Hi!
    I noticed that the comparison between human and bovine Colostrum ingredients shows higher concentrations in human Colostrum. Please check if this is correct as I have been taught that bovine Colostrum contains higher concentrations of most ingredients because the newborn calf is much bigger than the newborn baby and therefore needs more of the ingredients. Naturally the calf would volume wise take in much higher amounts of Colostrum than 1,5 teaspoons at the first feed!

    Thanking you kindly

    Rina Otto

  4. I have about 8oz of frozen colostrum from when my 7 month old was in nicu (32 weeks). I began expressing when I was preggers and gave it to my son who was a year old. The nurses were totally shocked when I pumped over an ounce of colostrum 4 hours after my csection. Not surprisingly, pumping 8x a day led to a massive oversupply, especially for a preemie who ate at most 10ml per feed for awhile. I was annoyed the nicu didn’t use up the colostrum first. I want to save it for if and when she or my son falls ill, but worry it’ll go bad if I wait too long. I guess I can use it as a baby laxative. I heard not to give her too much due to it’s poo inducing properties (and this girl is constipated after formula supplementation big time). Express during pregnancy ladies! It’s helped my production after both of my deliveries.

  5. Thank you for this excellent post!

  6. My 6 month old is both breast fed and formula fed. How do you feel about supplementing with bovine colostrum? If so, any recommendations on brands?

  7. How do I collect the colostrum (without pumping) do I just expel into a freezer bag or do you have any suggestions?

    • Sure, that would work.

  8. Hi Mama Natural! I am due in a few months a can’t breastfeed (not physically possible, sadly) and I’m trying to figure out of I should supplement with colostrum just after birth, and if so, with which of the many brands? Any advice would be so helpful for us and our little one 🙂

  9. Thank you for the thought provoking post. It’s interesting reading that it’s key in sealing the baby’s gut lining. What do you think would be a good approach for an adult with leaky gut? Would cow colostrum be suitable?

  10. What if you’re breastfeeding while pregnant? Can the older baby be satisfied with colostrum or should you pump-and-prepare for when you don’t have any breastmilk to give after you give birth?

    • Here’s what we say in our article on tandem nursing:

      Colostrum is a very special food specifically designed for your baby’s first few days of life. It is critical that your newborn should get “first dibs” on mom’s breasts so that he gets all of the therapeutic benefits of colostrum. In fact, you might want to restrict your older child from nursing long periods or at all during this time. That’s how important the colostrum is for the newborn. It seals the gut, and provides important proteins and immune-boosting antibodies.


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About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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