It’s not my place (or anyone’s) to tell a mother she has to breastfeed. Not my child, not my right, and I’m certainly not here to start any wars. But…having just said that, I am going to boldly suggest: please feed your baby that precious colostrum. I have encountered many moms online and in real life that have made the decision in pregnancy to bottle feed from the first feeding on. Be it tragic experiences breastfeeding previous babies or just that breastfeeding is something they feel they don’t want to try. I can’t relate whatsoever to those feelings, but as a mother who has breastfed her two babies exclusively, as a mother who has educated herself on the benefits of breastfeeding, and as a nurse who is passionate about breastfeeding, I just want to take a blog post to teach you about the awesomeness of colostrum.
Simply put, colostrum is the first milk a mother’s body produces. Colostrum production begins during pregnancy and continues for the first few days after birth and up to two weeks mixed with the mother’s mature milk. People often refer to breast milk as “liquid gold” and if that’s the case, then colostrum is “liquid platinum”. This special yellowy milk is thick and sticky and it’s perfectly tailored to a newborn’s needs and it is extremely easy to digest. It is high in protein, carbohydrates, sodium, postassium, choloride, and Vitamin A and is low in fat. A lot of new parents don’t know that a newborn’s stomach is the size of a marble at birth (yes, it really is that small!), which is why newborns feed so often. Colostrum is concentrated in nutrition – they need only teaspoons vs. ounces of it. It also acts as a mild laxative helping to clear out baby’s first meconium poop which also rids their tiny bodies of excess bilirubin. A build up of bilirubin causes jaundice (yellow) in babies which can in turn lead to other health problems.
Colostrum is a Natural Vaccine
Other than the superpowers of colostrum’s nutritional benefit, another extremely beneficial reason to feed newborns colostrum is that it acts as a 100% safe and natural vaccine. Babies are fed large amounts of immune cells, such as leukocytes, and antibodies called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) passed from the mother to help fight against many harmful agents. The concentration of these immune factors is significantly higher in colostrum than in mature milk. In utero babies receive the antibody IgG via the placenta, but IgA protects the baby from germs that likely will affect the intestines, lungs, and throat mucous membranes.
It’s Good for the Guts
Colostrum plays a very important role in the newborn’s gastrointestinal tract. Colostrum seals the holes of a newborn’s extremely permeable intestines by “painting” the gastrointestinal tract with a barrier which mostly prevents pathogens from penetrating. As I already mentioned above, colostrum also contains high concentrations of leukocytes which are your “warrior” white cells which can destroy disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
The colostrum gradually changes to mature milk during the first two weeks after birth. During this transition, the concentrations of the antibodies in your milk decrease, but your milk volume greatly increases. The disease-fighting properties of human milk do not disappear with the colostrum. In fact, as long as your baby receives your milk, he will receive immunological protection against many different viruses and bacteria.
I think one of the biggest motivating factors for me as a breastfeeding mom to push through and keep breastfeeding, especially in the early days, was this piece of information that I think a lot of new moms aren’t aware of. I learned this from the nurses who took the 18 hour breastfeeding course offered in our health region:
Even one supplemental bottle of artificial infant milk can sensitize a newborn to cow’s milk protein. Formula changes the gut flora in breastfed babies by breaking down the mucosal barrier that colostrum provides them. This violation allows pathogens and allergens entry into the baby’s system. For this reason, artificial supplements should not be given to infants who are at a high risk for allergies. In susceptible families, cow’s milk proteins may also increase the risk of a baby or child developing insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
So essentially even one supplemental feeding will wipe out all that good work done by colostrum. While I recognize again that it’s not my place to tell any other mother how to feed her baby, I hope that she will make an informed decision based the information and facts about breastfeeding. I would, however, encourage her to at least feed her baby her colostrum so that baby can receive the amazing health benefits that colostrum provides. Am I saying you’re a bad mother if you didn’t feed your baby colostrum? Absolutely not. My goal of this post is to educate moms and moms-to-be about colostrum.
Information taken from LLL to help write this post.