I was about 35 weeks along with my daughter and living in utter pregnancy bliss. With the exception of some morning sickness during my first trimester I was having an amazing pregnancy. I felt great, had an adorable basketball baby bump, and not a stretch mark in sight, when it happened. My breasts started leaking. Like really leaking. My breasts were leaking like I had already had my baby and had missed a feeding. No one told me about the leaking.
It looked milky but wasn’t milk.
It didn’t have a smell but was kind of sticky.
It had the amazing ability to soak through my shirt at the most inopportune times.
It was magical, mystical, nutritional colostrum although I was happy to see I was producing so much I was not prepared for its early arrival.
I dug a few nursing pads out of a gift bag I had received at a recent baby shower and put those bad boys to work, a little earlier than expected, making sure my shirts stayed dry. Had I known then what I know now about the amazing liquid gold that is colostrum, I would have invented some kind of pocket that could catch each and every drop. That might sound strange, and very unlikely, but when you learn how amazing and beneficial colostrum is to both baby and mommy, you’ll agree it’s definitely earned the name liquid gold.
Colostrum is the cloudy yellowish liquid that is produced during pregnancy, generally around the 2nd trimester, and continues through the early days of breastfeeding. Essentially it’s the first food that a mother produces and is the perfect nutrition for baby before mature milk arrives. It is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, protein, Vitamin A, and rock-star antibodies that get straight to work preparing baby’s tummy for the thicker, fattier diet of breast milk. Colostrum creates a barrier throughout the gastrointestinal tract keeping foreign substances, like foods the mother has eaten, from sensitizing baby’s tummy creating allergies and discomfort. It is easy to digest, providing living cells that protect against disease and acts as Mother’s Nature’s vaccine.
Have I made my case yet for its importance? I’ll continue…
Colostrum’s low volume, measured in teaspoons rather than ounces, may make it seem insufficient as baby’s sole nutrition before milk arrives (between two and seven days postpartum for most moms) but it’s easier to think of it as a concentration nutrition, featuring immune factors that are much greater than those found even in mature breast milk. It is also a natural laxative so by nursing immediately and frequently after birth you are helping your baby get rid of those tacky black stools and excrete excess bilirubin, helping to prevent jaundice. Colostrum doesn’t just disappear but mixes in with your breast milk when it arrives and gradually decreases within a week or two. While the concentration of colostrum decreases, the disease-fighting properties stay in your milk, giving your baby immunological protection for as long as you nurse!
Seriously. Liquid GOLD!
So you’ve soaked in all this great information and are 100% sold on wanting your baby to receive a full diet of colostrum until your milk comes in. But then, because you’re pregnant and emotional and worrisome, you start to get concerned about not having enough once your baby is born. You remember hearing about a friend who delivered her perfect little bundle but was pressured into supplementing with formula at the hospital because the doctor said her milk wasn’t coming in ‘fast enough’ and baby wasn’t getting enough nutrients. First and foremost, all the facts I’ve laid out for you thus far should encourage you to feel confident in your body and your colostrum’s ability to provide your baby with the exact nutrition he or she needs until your milk arrives. But if you are still worried there is still another option.
Antenatal colostrum expression, or collecting expressed colostrum while pregnant, is one way to ensure your baby is less likely to be offered formula in his or her first days earth side. Expressing colostrum during late pregnancy may not only give you a head start on your stored supply but has also been known to unplug milk ducts and increase your body’s natural colostrum production. So by creating a colostrum stash before your baby arrives you are reducing the chance of needing to supplement with formula soon after birth. Instead you can pull from your stash and ensure that your precious angel is getting all the nutrients, antibodies, and gut coating immunities that are all so important to baby’s tummy.
How many of you moms were surprised to start leaking colostrum during pregnancy? Did you express colostrum while pregnant?
*Disclaimer: Before proceeding with any kind of antenatal expression it is important that you speak with your OB or midwife to make sure that it is safe especially if you are prone to preterm labor or have other medical conditions. Because nipple stimulation may release oxytocin that can cause contractions you want to avoid extensive hand or pump expression before reaching full term.