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Colostrum: Its Importance and Benefits for Newborns

Colostrum: Its Importance and Benefits for Newborns

A mother’s body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Some of these are physical and which you can not actually see. One perfect example is the body’s production of breastmilk. Before a mother produces “regular” milk for their baby, they produce a different and unique kind of breast fluid called colostrum milk or “pre-milk. Colostrum benefits for newborns are significant, and this special kind of breastmilk plays an important role in a newborn’s early development.

What Is Colostrum?

Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk that the mammary glands produce. The colostrum has a thick, sticky consistency, and has a yellowish-white color. These characteristics are due to the high concentration of nutrients and antibodies. However, the appearance of colostrum may vary among mothers.

Colostrum benefits include having more protein, fewer carbohydrates and significantly less fat when compared to the type of breastmilk that a mother produces in the next stages of breastfeeding. There are many colostrum benefits that your newborn will gain from drinking colostrum milk.

After producing colostrum milk, the mammary glands will then start to produce the second stage of breast milk, which is the transitional breast milk. Transitional milk has higher protein than colostrum milk. After the second stage, the milk production will then proceed to the final stage, which is the mature milk.

When Do Mothers Start to Produce Colostrum?

Women normally make breastmilk, specifically colostrum milk, before giving birth. Milk production usually starts in the second trimester of the pregnancy at 16 to 22 weeks.

If you are currently in your second trimester and you notice that there is a clear or yellowish leakage from your breasts or small drops of liquid stains on your maternity bra, then that is most likely colostrum.

How Long Will You Continue to Produce Colostrum?

Colostrum production usually lasts for about 3 to 5 days after giving birth. And during this time it is important that your newborn receive all the colostrum benefits they can get. After this period, your breasts will start to get firmer and heavier, since the mammary glands will transition from the production of colostrum milk to mature milk.

Although the colostrum will become mature milk after the transition, it will still be present in the breast milk for about 6 weeks but not as potent as before.

Colostrum Benefits: Why Is It Best for Babies?

In all three stages of breast milk, the colostrum is definitely the most important of all. This is because colostrum gives the most nutrients to infants, which aids their overall growth and development.

Colostrum milk is composed of different essential nutrients and properties that a baby needs to thrive.

Here are some colostrum benefits you should know about, especially if you are a first-time mom:

Stronger Gut Health

Colostrum promotes good digestion in infants since it is high in protein and significantly low in sugar and fat. It also has high levels of lactoferrin, which is a prebiotic. Lactoferrin is responsible for the stimulation and growth of good bacteria in the gut.

Packed with Antibodies to Boost Immunity

The key factor why breastmilk, specifically the colostrum, is called “liquid gold” is because of its antibody and immune cell properties. These antibodies and immune cells help fight off bacteria and viruses that try to invade the body.

There are five secretory immunoglobulins (antibodies) in human breastmilk, namely: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, and IgE. However, the most potent antibody that is found in colostrum milk is IgA. The immunoglobulin A (IgA/SIgA) found in the mucous membrane, inhibits disease-causing bacteria and viruses from attaching to different organs, such as the intestines, throat, and lungs.

Loaded with Nutrients and Other Essential Properties

One of the most common colostrum benefits is its nutrient-dense features. Colostrum contains high levels of beta carotene, which gives off its yellowish or golden-yellow color. Beta carotene is a precursor of Vitamin A, which boosts immunity and improves eye health. Vitamin A also helps maintain the overall health of other organs in the body.

Colostrum is also rich in key nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamins C and E, and other minerals and macronutrients. All these special properties make colostrum the “superfood of all superfoods.”

Acts as a Natural Laxative

Aside from helping and keeping the digestive system in its best shape, colostrum also acts as a natural laxative, which helps infants get rid of meconium. Meconium, or the first stool of an infant, contains bilirubin, a yellow-orange substance, which in abnormal levels may cause jaundice.

Perfect for Premature Babies

Since colostrum benefits include the overall health of the digestive system as well as provide immunization, then it is the perfect aid for the growth and development of premature infants. Colostrum will help in building a healthy digestive system for preemies. At the same time, it can provide immunity against bacteria and viruses since premature babies are more susceptible to infection.

Even if mothers can only produce 2 to 4 tablespoons of colostrum a day, it is still the perfect serving size for an infant.

Key Takeaways

Since infants only need an ample amount of colostrum in the first few days after birth. It is completely normal if a mother’s initial breastmilk supply isn’t as much as the breastmilk she will produce in the future.

Even though the colostrum phase only lasts for a few weeks after delivery, it will still serve its purpose by giving all the nourishment that every baby needs to survive and thrive. Improving gut health and strengthening a newborn’s immunity are just a few of the many colostrum benefits.

Breastfeeding your baby may be hard work, but it is fulfilling to see your child grow healthy and strong every step of the way.

Learn more about Baby and Breastfeeding here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Colostrum https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/colostrum.htm Accessed August 7, 2020

Colostrum: Your Baby’s First Meal https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Colostrum-Your-Babys-First-Meal.aspx Accessed August 7, 2020

Understanding Colostrum- The Baby Superfood https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/intermountain-moms/2018/04/understanding-colostrum-the-baby-super-food/ Accessed August 7, 2020

Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-starting.html Accessed August 7, 2020

Anatomy: Colostrum https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513256/ Accessed August 7, 2020

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated a week ago
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.