December 2, 2010

I often talk to mothers who are advised to begin pumping their breasts and/or supplementing within the first 24 hours.

I also frequently talk with mothers who are trying to get baby back to breast after weeks of pumping and bottle feeding, usually with formula supplementation as well.

After asking these moms why they began pumping in the first place, it is because they are told by hospital staff that they do not have enough milk. There are so many things wrong with this statement. I could discuss the way that the environment in which a woman gives birth and interventions affect a mother’s milk supply, her hormones, and the baby’s ability to suckle. I could go into how much more efficient a baby is than a breast pump and how supporting a mom to feed her baby at the breast would be a much more productive use of time, money, and would also build strong bonds within families. However, I won’t even go into all of these things on this post. In this post, I will try to stick to the basics of colostrum. What is it? What is the purpose of colostrum? How much does baby need in the first few hours? In the first few days?

What is Colostrum?

*Colostrum is basically your first milk & baby’s first food.
*It is thicker & stickier than your milk will be in the next stages of milk production.
*Yellow-ish in color

Why is Colostrum Important? What does it do?

*Colostrum functions as a natural laxative for babe. This is a wonderful way to help baby pass the first stools, meconium.
*Colostrum helps keep baby healthy by providing living cells complete with amazing antibodies that assist an infant’s immature immune system. (they certainly can’t make formula a living substance!!)
*Easy to digest. Perfect food for baby. Any supplementation is enough to change the flora of an infant’s gut for at least 2 weeks.
*aids in excretion of excess bilirubin, helping prevent jaundice
*seals gastrointestinal tract of babe, this helps prevent later issues with food sensitivities

How much Colostrum Does my Baby Need?

Baby’s stomach capacity is approximately the size of the palm of their hand. It is normal for moms to love their baby with so much intensity that they want to do everything just right. It is a powerful mothering instinct to want to make sure baby is fed. It is a great aspect of the strong bond between mothers and babies even before birth. However, it is also important to understand an infant’s stomach capacity and to realize that it is not necessary to fill up an entire baby with milk within the first day. Infants do not have hollow arms and legs and they are born to take only the precise amount of colostrum that your body is ready to feed them as you both learn about breastfeeding together.

The average stomach capacity of a newborn is:

DAY 1 ~ 5-7ml. (wow!! this means your new baby only needs about 1.5 teaspoons per feeding)
DAY 3 ~ 3/4-1oz. (2 tablespoons!! yep, that is all. you & your baby can do this!)
DAY 7 ~ 1.5-2oz (3-4 tablespoons)


The great news is that if you have provided exclusive breastmilk throughout baby’s 1st week, it is so much easier to continue nursing for as long as you wish.

A Great Visual of Colostrum with Hand Expression