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April 25, 2022

What Is Colostrum?

Written By: Elisa A

Is breastfeeding a part of your baby plan? If it is, you've no doubt been hearing all about colostrum – and we’re parsing out this breastfeeding superfood for you here.

Most new moms in the U.S. opt to breastfeed – if you’re planning on being one of them, you’re probably asking yourself what is colostrum, how much colostrum does my baby need, and when does lactation start? We’ve got the answers for you.

But first, a reminder: Just like every other step on your mamahood journey, deciding whether or not to breastfeed is a personal choice, one informed by your individual situation, preferences, and abilities. Don’t let ANYONE shame you regarding your breastfeeding choices – even if it’s well-intentioned or comes from a place of concern – tune it out. Only you get to decide what’s best for you and your baby.

What is colostrum – and why is it so important?

Lesson #1 for what to know about breastfeeding is colostrum, which is sometimes called “first breast milk” or “early breast milk,” and it’s exactly that – nutrient-rich “pre” breast milk that your body produces in earnest during the first few days post-birth. It actually starts during pregnancy. Colostrum is packed with tons of protein and “good” sugars and fats, and it provides many benefits for your baby, including:

  • Immune protection
  • Bowel stimulation, to ease meconium release (their first poop)
  • Helping to combat low blood sugar levels and deliver a needed nutritional bump for preemies.
  • Preventing jaundice.

What does colostrum look like?

Another need to know about breastfeeding is that thick and sticky colostrum can be clear, white, or most commonly yellow, depending on your body. A hue that leans toward orange-ish and a thinner, watery consistency is also normal, so please don’t freak out if either of those is what you’ve got.

Only you get to decide what’s best for you and your baby.

How much colostrum does my newborn need?

Any amount of colostrum you produce is good for your baby, though most moms express about an ounce a day.

When does lactation start during pregnancy?

Your breast milk, and colostrum, will come in around halfway through your pregnancy. When you actually start to lactate, will depend on your body – as with other pregnancy body changes, “normal” is a wide, all-encompassing spectrum – and you can expect to experience some colostrum leaking from your breasts while pregnant.

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