Oftentimes, the importance of baby’s very first nutrition, colostrum, goes unrecognized as new mothers hope and wait and worry about when their milk will come in. Good news! Colostrum is milk and while it doesn’t flow as quickly or look like mature milk, it’s of great significance as a new baby’s sustenance. If you’ve ever heard it referred to as “liquid gold,” the reasoning behind that is much more than the rich yellow color (note: colostrum can also be clear or white, or even other colors).
Colostrum has been Present since Before Birth
A brand new mother has actually been producing colostrum for quite some time before baby is born; usually since mid-pregnancy. It can go unnoticed though since it is produced and excreted in very small volumes as the body prepares for baby’s birth. Once baby arrives, colostrum gradually increases in production to begin feeding baby. If it’s something you have noticed during your own pregnancy, do not be alarmed. Your body is simply preparing for your baby’s birth, even several months before baby arrives.
Small but Mighty
Colostrum packs a punch nutritionally. It is thick and concentrated and that’s because, while it exits the body slowly and in small volumes, it’s filled with immunities and lines baby’s gut to help baby fight off illnesses he/she may be exposed to over time. It also contains all the necessary proteins, sugar, and fats to sustain baby. It is the perfect first food for a newborn baby. In addition to all the nutritional benefits, colostrum acts as a laxative to assist baby in passing those first stools and preventing jaundice and low blood sugar. Nursing baby in the first hour after birth, will help yield a larger production of colostrum in the long-run.
Perfect for Practice
The very small volumes (babies only need about 1-4 teaspoons a day when first born) in which colostrum is available to baby provides baby and mom both with a few days of nursing-practice. Baby can spend time perfecting latching and suckling without also having to gulp fast-flowing milk. This can be such a helpful time for both mom and baby.
Colostrum can also be an actual lifesaver for babies born prematurely. Babies born early benefit even more so than full-term infants and have been shown to have far better outcomes than pre-term infants who do not receive colostrum. In fact, a common digestive complication for pre-term infants called necrotizing enterocolitis can be avoided by baby receiving colostrum instead of formula.
Liquid Gold, Indeed
Colostrum has earned the title of liquid gold because of its extreme value to a newborn. It’s of no less importance than mature milk and new mothers should feel confident that baby is being fed well in the first several days before transitional milk and mature milk come in fully. Colostrum is the perfect first food for baby and should be celebrated for its amazing nutritional properties.