The Latest Research On Colostrum All Moms Should Know About
Colostrum is the pre-milk that comes from a new mom's breasts to feed newborns during those first hours and days before your full milk supply comes in. Also called "liquid gold," it is often gold-tinted and more clear than milk. Colostrum is different from breast milk and has a unique composition of ingredients that is amazingly suited for this first stage of a newborn’s life, when the baby is being introduced to the world outside of the womb.
The newborn’s immune system also has a lot of work to do sorting out foreign entities outside the womb—fighting off the bad germs, welcoming good bacteria, etc. New research finds that colostrum helps the immune system through this transition in many different ways. This review written by Nichole Theresa Cacho in Frontiers in Immunology nicely summarizes some of these exciting findings. There are specific types of antibodies and immune molecules that stimulate the immune system, and there are vitamins and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Colostrum also has an abundance of body-made antibiotics (called antimicrobial peptides) that fight the bad bacteria that can lead to infection.
Colostrum contains many important ingredients like growth factors, vitamins, and electrolytes that help repair and grow many of the quickly changing organs, like the newborn gut. While colostrum was at one time believed to be sterile, newer research shows that it actually contains microbiome-boosting probiotic bacteria, too. Particularly high in colostrum are special sugars, called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), that have been shown to be "food" for the good bacteria populating the newborn’s developing microbiome.
Another thing that makes colostrum so special is the amount of it we produce. Women generally make a few teaspoons of colostrum each day, and it comes out a drop or two at a time. That makes sense, considering newborns have stomachs the size of a marble. Often during these first few days of life, babies are working hard to figure out how to latch, and when they are not asleep, they want to be at the breast. The fact that the breast leaks one drop at a time means that the baby has enough to stay engaged in latching but not so much that he or she is too satiated and then not interested in latching. Remember, since the baby’s body and the mother's body are still interconnected during the fourth trimester, the baby continues to need to latch, and this continues to stimulate the breasts, which then send signals to your brain to make certain hormones that tell the body that it is time to produce milk. With each colostrum feed, your body is sorting out how much milk you ultimately need to make. It is a complete system, a perfect feedback loop.
So during those first few days, know that the tiny amount of liquid gold that you are producing is just what your baby needs at exactly the right time. If your baby seems to want to feed much of the waking time during these first few days, know that's what's supposed to be happening to get the breastfeeding system in order. One of the main jobs of the newborn and the mother during this phase is just to be together and feed. Be patient and know that each colostrum feed is incredibly important on so many levels.
Psst...have you heard that colostrum is a hot topic in the health world right now? Check out why here.