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 Factors||Human Colostrum||Bovine Colostrum|
|Epidermal growth factor (EGF)||200 mcg/L||30-50 mcg/L|
|Transforming growth factor (TGF α)||2.2-7.2 mcg/L||2.2-7.2 mcg/L|
|TGF β||20-40 mg/L||1-2 mg/L|
|Insulin like growth factor (VEGF)||18 mg/L||10 mg/L|
|Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)||75 mcg/L||NA|
|Growth hormone (GH)||41 ng/L||<0.03 ng/L|
|Compositions (g/L)||Human colostrum||Human breast milk||Cow’s milk|
|Total protein|| 23|| 11|| 31|
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.
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!