Expressing Liquid Gold While You’re Pregnant
Colostrum is often referred to as “liquid gold” due to its exceptional healing properties and its deep yellow colour. It’s full of antibodies, proteins, white blood cells, vitamins and minerals, which set up your baby’s body with a robust immune system and help to prevent infections.
What is colostrum?
It is known as “the first milk” and is produced by your body during pregnancy and for the first few days after your baby arrives. You might notice colostrum leaking from your breasts as early as 16 weeks into your pregnancy.
What you may not have known is that you can hand-express colostrum before your baby is born. Check with your care provider, but it is usually safe from 36 weeks.
Why would I want to express colostrum in pregnancy?
Well, there are several reasons. First and most importantly, it lets you get to know your breasts. Some of us are not comfortable with touching our breasts, and this process allows us to become familiar with them.
You may get one drop of colostrum, you may fill a whole syringe, or you may get none at all. Please don’t worry if you don’t get any. The amount you get does not reflect how much milk you will make when your baby arrives. Just see this experience as practice and confidence building for when your baby does come, as it’s a valuable skill to have postnatally.
Another reason to hand express is to help build a supply before your baby arrives. This is beneficial if you already know that you will be separated from your baby for some time after birth, for example there is a known special circumstance that requires your baby to have treatment. If you are having a planned Caesarean section, it can be beneficial to have some colostrum as your milk supply can be slightly delayed compared with a vaginal birth. It is also useful when you know you are having your baby earlier than usual or having multiple babies (twins, triplets).
The unfortunate rising rates of birth intervention and birth trauma can affect the initiation of breastfeeding and breastfeeding outcomes, so having any supply of colostrum is like your insurance policy in case any special circumstances arise. Collecting colostrum before your baby arrives doesn’t mean that you will use up your colostrum either; you will continue to make it for the first few days after your baby arrives.
Have you heard of night two syndrome? Often the second night after your baby has come into the world, it now realises it and things begin to seem a little scary for them. They are wearing clothes for the first time, they feel the cold breeze and noises, and we expect them to sleep in a bassinet next to us. They usually want to be held in your arms and feed a lot of the night, more so than you can imagine right now. But this is entirely normal. And this fact may help you get through night two, but what might help you even more is a syringe of colostrum. It can help give you some extra rest and help you to persevere on your breastfeeding journey.
Once you have collected your amazing colostrum in syringes, you can then store it in the freezer. When your birthing time begins, you can bring your colostrum with you in a cooler to your place of birth, or have it at home for your home birth.
If you end up storing milk and not using it to feed your baby, there are numerous other things you can use it for. If your baby has sticky discharge in its eye, you can put some breastmilk on it. You can put it in their bath as it’s a great moisturiser, or you can donate it to other families in need. And if your baby is older, you can freeze some into delicious icy pops for when they are teething.
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, and everyone’s breastfeeding journey will look different. As a midwife and a lactation consultant, there are four things that I would recommend for you to get your breastfeeding journey off to a great start;
- Attend antenatal education that empowers you for breastfeeding
- Express colostrum antenatally
- Seek postnatal breastfeeding support from midwives and lactation consultants
- and above all- if you feel like you need help, then please ask.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby as it releases the beautiful love hormone known as oxytocin, it increases bonding, and has a huge range of health benefits for you both. I wish you all the best on your breastfeeding journey.
How do I express colostrum in pregnancy?
Here is my video guide on the step by step process of hand expressing colostrum while you are pregnant.