Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Did you know you actually start producing milk around 16 weeks pregnant? Colostrum is the first milk your body produces. It is rich in antibodies and high in protein and minerals. Your body is prompted to start creating colostrum by the rise of prolactin, the milk making hormone, levels in your body. It is even possible that you will start leaking droplets or more substantial amounts of colostrum during your pregnancy, but don't worry it doesn't run out before your baby arrives. You could even start expressing some colostrum starting at 36 weeks pregnant to store for when your baby arrives.
Reasons you may consider this:
In case the lactating parent and baby have to be separated post birth (due to a c-section, or other emergency) then another caregiver can feed the baby their parent's colostrum.
If you have issues with lactation in the beginning, and need temporary supplementation.
If you are expecting baby will need to have supplementation right after birth. Examples: if you have gestational diabetes, if you might be carrying a very large baby, or if you might be carrying a very small baby.
If you know your baby is going to have certain health conditions that require time in the NICU.
If you're planning c-section. Surgical births interrupt the hormonal process that tell the body to make milk, resulting in a longer period of time post birth before your milk "comes in" (meaning: before your colostrum transitions to mature milk). In an uninterrupted birth, milk can come in 1-3 days post birth, but with c-sections it can take up to 7 days.
If you feel concerned about breast/chestfeeding, having colostrum on hand can help ease your anxiety and give you time to figure out how to feed your baby without stressing that you're starving them.
Save it for ear infections, cuts, or stuffy noses if you don't end up using it immediately post birth!
How do you do collect your colostrum?
Use your hands to express colostrum onto a spoon or into a small container. Know that you will likely only get a few drops. You can express colostrum up to 3 times a day. Only express one side at a time. You can try to use a manual or electric pump, but they may not be effective at removing colostrum as hand expression. Even with the pump, you should still only do one side at a time.
Suck the colostrum up with a syringe and store in the fridge if the syringe isn't full. You can store milk in the fridge for up to 4 days. Continue adding milk to the same syringe until it's full, or 4 days have passed. At that point, label it with the date from the oldest milk, and pop it in the freezer. Your baby only needs around 5 mL per feeding for the first day of life and up to 1 oz by day 2.
Bring a few syringes with you to your birthing place in the event that you need to use them. REMINDER, once thawed, they need to be kept in the fridge and used within 24 hours.
Are there any concerns?
The main concern is that nipple stimulation can cause uterine contractions which bring on labor. If you find that you are experiencing an onset of contractions within a few minutes, stop expression. This is why it is not recommended until around 36-37 weeks.
If you're considered high risk, do not express colostrum antenatally.
If you have a history of premature labor, do not express colostrum during pregnancy.
If you have any questions or concerns, chat with your medical provider.