If you've spent any time in the birth and breastfeeding worlds, the word "colostrum" has probably come up. While this incredible milk is beginning to get the recognition it deserves, we wanted to give you a brief overview of exactly WHY it is incredible.
Colostrum is the first type of milk your body creates during pregnancy and immediately after birth. It's production is triggered by progesterone during pregnancy, and it changes to "transitional milk" around 2-4 days after delivery.
It has a thick, creamy, almost sticky texture, and the rich yellow color is why it's often nicknamed "golden milk". This distinct hue comes from the high levels of carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin A it contains.
Colostrum's nutrient ratios make it the perfect food for a brand new digestive system! While breastmilk is typically higher in fat, this early milk is lower in fats and sugars, with twice the protein. This creates a meal that is especially gentle for the stomach and easily absorbed.
One of the (many) amazing things found in colostrum is SIgA, or secretory immunoglobulin. This rich substance coats the lining of both the respiratory AND digestive tracts, helping to kill off harmful viruses and bacteria. Since a newborn's immune system is not yet working at full capacity, it is especially helpful in those first few days to prevent illness and infections. SIgA also acts as a gentle laxative, allowing baby to pass all the meconium.
Colostrum has high doses of vitamins, minerals, and immune boosting substances like:
Vitamins A, K, B12
White blood cells (that produce antibodies and fight infections)
Due to it's highly concentrated and nutrient dense profile, a little goes a long way! Only a few teaspoons are produced at each feeding, and for a healthy newborn, this is all they will need until the mother's transitional milk fully comes in. These bite-sized meals allow baby to learn the basics of breastfeeding at a gentle pace: latching, sucking, swallowing, and doing all three while breathing through the nose. It's a lot to learn, after all!
In the majority of cases we personally see, as long as there are no serious health conditions and baby is eating every 1-2.5 hours, colostrum is all that a newborn needs. It nourishes, it protects, and it sets baby up a healthy breastfeeding relationship with mom.
This is not medical advice.
If baby is showing signs of dehydration or other concerns, always mention it to your trusted medical provider and get the help you need!