So you’re getting to the pointy end of things… time is flying (or not – 3rd trimester feels!) and bub is almost ready to arrive! Expressing colostrum antenatally is a great way to get your colostrum flowing before baby arrives and set you up for breastfeeding success in those early days post-birth.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum can appear in a range of different consistencies. It can present as yellow and thick or clear and runny. It is the first stage of breast milk production and a mother’s body usually begins to make colostrum from around 16 weeks gestation of a pregnancy. Colostrum is incredibly nutritious and contains very high levels of antibodies which are proteins that fight infections and bacteria. It is a wonderful and natural way to provide your newborn with all the nutrients and fluid that they need in the early days following birth.
Why express colostrum?
The reasons for expressing colostrum antenatally vary and we’ve taken a look at some of the most important factors.
- Antibodies : Colostrum is an incredible source of antibodies. Expressed and frozen colostrum can be used as a hugely valuable resource any time your baby may become unwell in the first six months of life.
- Diabetes : A baby born to a mother with gestational diabetes during pregnancy is at a higher risk of low blood sugar after birth. A strong recommendation is often given for the baby to receive extra colostrum in order to assist in the stabilisation of his or her blood sugar levels.
- Hand Expressing : Expressing colostrum provides mums with valuable practice at mastering the technique of hand expressing well before baby arrives. It also then offers a nice little back-up stash of colostrum which can be used if, for any reason, mum and baby are separated for any period of time after birth.
- Feeding Issue : There can be a variety of reasons or conditions for why a baby may not be feeding well. These may include a cleft lip and/or palate, or a neurological or cardiac condition. Ultimately this can mean that a mother will be asked to hand express colostrum to feed her baby. Expressing colostrum antenatally means she will have extra on hand if needed.
- In a large randomised, controlled trial, a DAME (Diabetes and Antenatal Milk Expressing) study showed that for women having their first baby, there was an increased chance that their babies would be exclusively breast milk fed in the first 24 hours of life, if expressed colostrum was available.
It is important to note at this point that there is a huge variation in the amount of colostrum each mother is actually able to express antenatally. The amount expressed before birth is not an indication of expected milk supply post-birth. Every single drop of colostrum is precious and jam packed with an amazing amount of benefits. So congratulate yourself every step of the way, for each and every drop, no matter how big or small the win. It’s all incredibly positive.
If you’re finding yourself having a good think about and considering expressing colostrum antenatally, please make sure you have a chat with your healthcare provider about the best time for you to start. Most commonly, mums-to-be are given the advice to start from around weeks 35-36 of their pregnancy. Again, this is highly dependent on how your individual pregnancy is progressing and whether your pregnancy is considered low risk. Expressing colostrum antenatally is not recommended for higher risk pregnancies. Even if you are travelling well and you have been told your pregnancy is low risk, it is always important to have a conversation with your midwife or other healthcare provider before you start this practice.
Made To Milk is so proud to have developed Australia’s very FIRST Antenatal Colostrum Expressing Kit which contains everything you will need to begin collecting and storing your colostrum antenatally!
Visit our website here to read all about our Antenatal Colostrum Expressing Kit.
Visit our Instagram page here to watch videos on the perfect hand expressing technique.