Benefits of Collecting Colostrum Before Birth: A Comprehensive Guide

Collecting colostrum before birth is becoming increasingly popular as more and more women are learning about the benefits of this practice. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mammary glands after giving birth, and it is rich in nutrients, antibodies, and antioxidants that help build a newborn baby’s immune system. By collecting colostrum before birth, women can ensure that their babies receive these vital nutrients right from the start.

One of the main benefits of collecting colostrum before birth is that it can help ensure that babies receive enough of this vital first milk. Some babies may have difficulty latching onto the breast right after birth, and collecting colostrum beforehand can help ensure that they still receive the nutrients they need. Additionally, collecting colostrum before birth can be especially beneficial for premature babies or babies with health issues, as it can help provide them with the extra nutrition and immune support they need to thrive.

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What is Colostrum?

Colostrum is often considered the “first milk” for new moms. It’s production begins during the second trimester of pregnancy and for a few days after giving birth.

Colostrum is rich in antibodies, which are proteins that help protect newborns from infections and diseases. These antibodies are also known as immunoglobulins and are passed from the mother to the baby through breast milk.

While colostrum is ideal for the first few days, the composition of breast milk quickly changes as your baby grows, and the amount of colostrum decreases. After a few days, your milk transitions to what is known as “transitional milk,” which is higher in fat and lactose than colostrum. Over time, breast milk continues to change to meet the baby’s nutritional needs.

Why Collect Colostrum Before Birth?

Antenatal colostrum harvesting, also known as expressing colostrum, involves collecting colostrum from the breasts before the baby is born. It is usually done after 37 weeks of pregnancy.

This practice has become more common in recent years, especially among individuals who are at a higher risk of birth and post-birth complications. While anyone can benefit from it, here are some individuals who may have an increased benefit

Here are some of the benefits of collecting colostrum before birth:

Benefits

There are many benefits to collecting colostrum before birth, including:

  • Having breast milk ready in case baby has low blood sugar, jaundice, etc.
  • Helps facilitate a positive start to breastfeeding
  • Allows others to be involved
  • Empowers you to feel more in control after your baby is born
  • Provides peace of mind that you have breast milk available in the situation where you may be separated or unable to provide milk for your child

While anyone can benefit from harvesting colostrum, the following individuals may benefits the most:

  • If you have diabetes of any kind (including Gestational Diabetes)
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Breast hypoplasia
  • Previous breast surgery
  • Baby has a cleft lip or palate
  • Intrauterine growth restricted fetus
  • Congenital conditions such as Down Syndrome
  • Possibility of cardiac issues
  • Risk of premature birth

Risks

There are some risks associated with collecting colostrum before birth, including:

  • Complications: Collecting colostrum before birth can sometimes cause complications, such as early labor or uterine contractions. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before attempting to collect colostrum.
  • Frustration: Some moms find hand expression to be difficult. If you are having difficulty hand expressing colostrum before giving birth, it may make you feel less confident about your ability to breastfeed. It’s important to remember that hand expression is a learned skill and may take time to learn how to do well.
  • Contamination: Breast milk is pretty resilient, but there is always the possibility that the milk you express can get contaminated with bacteria or spoil. The best thing you can do is use good hand hygiene before and after hand expressing as well as follow proper breast milk storage and handling guidelines.

Overall, collecting colostrum before birth can provide many benefits for both the mother and the baby. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before attempting to collect colostrum and to work with a lactation consultant to ensure proper breastfeeding techniques. I am always happy to do a virtual prenatal consult, which includes instruction on this topic, for anyone interested.

How to Collect Colostrum Before Birth?

Overall, collecting colostrum before birth can provide many benefits for both mother and baby. Colostrum is often referred to as “liquid gold” due to its high nutrient density and immune-boosting properties. It can help newborn babies digest their first milk, reduce the risk of infection and jaundice, and stabilize low blood sugar levels. Colostrum also contains immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and epidermal growth factor, which can help support the immune system and promote healthy growth and development.

When to Start

Antenatal colostrum harvesting can begin as early as the second trimester of pregnancy. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting to express colostrum to ensure that it is safe for both mother and baby. Women with a history of breast surgery or complications during pregnancy should also consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider before expressing colostrum.

If you are at a high risk of pre-term labor, miscarriage or stillbirth, this may be another contraindication to collecting colostrum.

In my experience, it is usually ideal to wait until 36-37 weeks pregnant. With that said, I know individuals who started earlier due to knowing they produce a lower supply of milk. It’s important to be on the same page as your health care provider.

How to Collect

There are several methods for collecting colostrum before birth, including hand expressing, using a breast pump (manual or electric), or using milk collection cups.

Milk Collection Cups

Milk collection cups are a great option for moms that are leaking colostrum. This is an easy solution for not letting that liquid gold go to waste!

There are many different collection cups on the market, including:

If you aren’t leaking colostrum, this may not be the best option for you.

Hand Expression

Hand expressing is the preferred method as it is gentle and convenient. To hand express, women should first wash their hands and apply a warm compress to their breasts to help stimulate milk flow. They can then gently massage their breasts and nipple area before hand expressing into a sterile container or syringe.

Breast Pump

Using a breast pump can also be effective for collecting colostrum before birth. Women should start with a low suction setting and gradually increase the suction as they become more comfortable.

This is generally not the method I recommend. Learning to pump effectively can take time, and it can be easy to do overdue it. I would especially avoid this earlier on in pregnancy or if you’re at risk of pre-term labor.

If you use to use a breast pump, I would suggest using a manual breast pump as it can be easier to control the speed of the expression.

What to Express Colostrum Into

Typically, you won’t be collecting enough colostrum to need a bottle to pump or express into, especially during pregnancy.

There are a few different options that I recommend:

  • Clean liquid medicine cup
  • Spoon
  • Kindest Cup
  • Colostrum collector – such as the Haakaa collectors

You can express directly into a syringe, but I find this to be a bit cumbersome.

How to Store Collected Colostrum

Collected colostrum can be stored in a sterile container or syringe and frozen for later use. It is important to label the container with the date and time of collection and to use the frozen colostrum within six months.

I typically prefer one of three options:

  • Syringes with caps
  • Periodontal syringes
  • Haakaa collectors

I would have a freezer Ziploc bag or reusable storage container that you keep in the fridge were you can easily store all of the syringe.s

However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before expressing colostrum to ensure that it is safe for both mother and baby. Women who experience complications during pregnancy or have a history of breast surgery should also consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider before expressing colostrum.

Storing Colostrum Before Birth

Expectant mothers who plan to breastfeed their newborns may consider collecting colostrum before birth. Storing colostrum can be beneficial in cases where the baby may have difficulty latching or if the mother experiences complications during delivery. Here are some tips on how to store colostrum before birth.

How to Store

Colostrum can be collected by hand expression or with a breast pump. It is recommended to collect colostrum in sterile containers or syringes. The collected colostrum should be labeled with the date and time of collection and stored in a freezer or refrigerator.

How Long to Store

Colostrum can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours and in the freezer for up to six months. It is important to use the colostrum within the recommended timeframe to ensure its safety and quality. Defrosted colostrum should not be refrozen and should be used within 24 hours.

It is important to note that colostrum should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Mothers should always consult with their healthcare provider before collecting and storing colostrum.

In conclusion, storing colostrum before birth can be beneficial for mothers and their newborns. Proper storage and handling of colostrum can help ensure its safety and quality. Mothers should always consult with their healthcare provider before collecting and storing colostrum.

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