Expressing colostrum before birth can have many benefits. In this article, we will share everything you need to know about how to store colostrum before birth to ensure ease of use and safe feeding conditions for your newborn baby.
When preparing for a new baby, expectant mothers may consider expressing and storing colostrum before birth. While this has been a practice for many years, it has only recently gained more traction.
Storing colostrum can be beneficial for mothers who may have difficulty breastfeeding after delivery or for those who want to build up a supply of milk before their baby arrives. It is often recommended for mothers with gestational diabetes who plan to breastfeed.
While there are many steps to this process and factors to consider, in this article we will be focusing on how to properly store your colostrum before birth.
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In a Nut Shell
There are several methods for collecting and storing colostrum, including hand expressing and using a breast pump.
It is important to talk with your care provider about when it’s safe for you to start hand expressing or pumping while pregnant. It is typically okayed between 36 and 39 weeks gestation, but this is a discussion you should have with your doctor.
Hand expressing is a simple and effective way to collect colostrum. It is generally the method I recommend.
Pumping is sometimes used to before giving birth to collect colostrum. However, in my experience, it tends to be more difficult than hand expression.
You can can store colostrum in sterile containers or syringes in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours or in the freezer for up to six months. It’s important to label and date the containers and to use them within the recommended timeframe to ensure the safety and quality of the milk.
What to Store Colostrum In
When it comes to storing colostrum, it is important to use the right type of container to ensure that it remains safe and fresh for your newborn. It should also be appropriate for the amount of colostrum you’ll produce, which likely won’t be enough for a milk storage bag. Typically, I recommend using sterile medical syringes.
Syringes are a great option for storing colostrum for a couple of reasons:
- You can easily store small amounts of colostrum in them
- They don’t take up a ton of storage space
- Syringe feeding is a great option for feeding newborn babies in a way that complements breastfeeding.
Best Syringes for Colostrum
The best type of syringe to use for colostrum storage is a sterile, single-use syringe with a capacity of 1ml, 3ml, or 5ml. These syringes are designed to be easy to use and can be safely stored in the fridge or freezer. I find most people are good with the 1 ml syringes, especially before giving birth.
Syringes with caps are the best option for safe storage. Here are a few different syringes I recommend.
These ones from Haakaa are specifically for colostrum and great quality. They are a bit expensive, though. They told 20mls, which is quite a bit more than the more traditional syringes.
This is a traditional syringe with cap. It is 1 ml, but you can get them in larger amounts, to. I prefer ones with caps for easier storage.
I like curved syringes because they can be easier to use in a baby’s mouth. They are sometimes called dental syringes.
It is important to use a sterile syringe when collecting and storing colostrum to prevent contamination and infection. Additionally, using a single-use syringe ensures that the colostrum remains fresh and free from bacteria.
I recommend storing the syringes in a freezer storage bag. This can hold a lot of syringes, and it can make it easy to take to the hospital.
Once you have chosen how to store your colostrum, you should also be aware of how to properly handle and store it for later. Proper storage ensures that the colostrum stays as fresh as possible and free from contamination.
In general, typical breast milk storage guidelines are in play.
Refrigerator storage is recommended for colostrum that will be used within 48 hours. The colostrum can be stored in a sterile container. It is important to label the container or bag with the date and time it was expressed. The colostrum should be placed in the back of the refrigerator, where the temperature is the coldest.
It can stay in the fridge for 3-4 days beyond that. You can also put colostrum from different sessions in the same container as long as they are the same temperature.
Freezer storage is recommended for colostrum that will not be used within 48 hours. You should make sure the colostrum is properly sealed to ensure it doesn’t get freezer burnt.
It is important to label the container or bag with the date and time it was expressed. The colostrum should be placed in the back of the freezer, where the temperature is the coldest.
The frozen colostrum can be stored for up to 12 months, though six months is optimal. Once thawed, it should be used within 24 hours.
Tips for Storing Colostrum
- Use syringes for storage and put the syringes in a large plastic storage bag (or reusable bag if you prefer)
- Label the container or bag with the date and time it was expressed.
- Store colostrum in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature is the coldest.
- Use an insulated cooler bag with ice packs when transporting colostrum to the hospital.
- Ask the healthcare provider to store the colostrum in the maternity ward’s refrigerator until it is ready to use.
- Do not mix fresh colostrum with previously frozen colostrum.
- Do not store colostrum in the door of the refrigerator or freezer, as the temperature can fluctuate.
Storing colostrum can help ensure that the baby receives all the benefits of breastfeeding, including a reduced risk of infections and a stronger immune system. It can also help prevent low milk supply and the need for infant formula. However, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of storing colostrum and breastfeeding in general. A colostrum collector may also be helpful for mothers who have difficulty expressing colostrum.
Why Store Colostrum Before Birth?
Storing colostrum before birth can be beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Colostrum is the first milk that a mother produces after giving birth, and it is packed with important nutrients and antibodies that help nourish and protect the baby’s immune system.
It can be especially helpful for babies that are premature, at risk for having low blood sugar, and for those babies who are struggling to nurse at the breast.
If you are trying to decide if expressing colostrum is right for you, be sure to book a virtual prenatal consult with me where we can discuss this and all other concerns you may have!
Storing colostrum isn’t difficult, but it’s important to know how to do it properly. This will ensure that you will feel less frustrated and overwhelmed and more confident in the quality of the milk you’ve stored.
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Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.