Colostrum Harvesting: Everything You Need To Know

Colostrum Harvesting: Everything You Need To Know ...

If breastfeeding is the right choice for you and your baby, then you may be familiar with the term colostrum. Colostrum is packed with vitamins, antibodies, and nourishment to provide your baby with a fantastic start. It's so beneficial to newborn babies that many women are eager to learn how to harvest it as much as possible.

colostrum is a bit different from regular breast milk. "I like to think of it as a protein bar, a small quantity of food that keeps you full for a few hours," says Sarah Schooler, an international board-certified lactation consultant and lead consultant at Thrive Lactation Center.

Colostrum production starts early, typically between 16 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, and it is thicker in consistency and has a more yellow or golden hue to it than the usual breast milk your body will produce after the baby is born. We're talking teaspoons here, but a tiny amount goes a long way.

Anyone can harvest colostrum, but it may be particularly beneficial in certain situations, for example if your baby might begin their breastfeeding journey in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), or if your child will be born with a cleft palate.

How to Collect Colstrum

Melanie Silverman, MS, RD, an international board-certified lactation consultant and president of Pacify Health, says you may be able to begin collecting and harvesting colostrum before your little one arrives.

Schooler believes that hand-holding colostrum is the easiest and most efficient strategy. For many women, the first few times they use it, the breast pump is not as effective.

Colostrum harvesting: Benefits and Drawbacks

Colostrum harvesting is a wonderful activity, although it is not all that wonderful. Make sure you understand both the pros and the cons before you start. Here are a few reasons you may want to try it:

If you are planning to harvest colostrum, here are a few things to keep an eye on:

  • It can feel discouraging. Youre not guaranteed to collect a lot of colostrum before giving birth and sometimes you might struggle to get any at all. It can be discouraging if you dont see any colostrum, or painful if you are hand expressing for too long, Silverman says.
  • It may induce labor. The biggest con of harvesting is that nipple stimulation during pregnancy has been associated with inducing labor, Schooler warns. Thats why you should always speak with your OB-GYN or midwife before you try. And if you begin to experience contractions while hand-expressing, stop immediately and call your doctor.

When do you start leaking colostrum?

When you are pregnant, there is no set time that youll begin leaking colostrum. In fact, some people never do, and whether or not you leak does nothing about your capacity to breastfeed. Some women begin leaking colostrum around 20 weeks, others never leak colostrum, Schooler says. Whether or not you leak colostrum means nothing about what your breastfeeding journey will be like.

Is it possible that labor is on the way?

If you notice colostrum leaking from your nipples, it might be a good sign that labor is nearing. However, don't grab your hospital bag yet.

Schooler explains that hormones signal the breasts to hold the milk in during pregnancy. Once the placenta separates after delivery, these hormones shift and signal the breasts to increase the flow of colostrum. However, leaking of colostrum alone is not a reliable indicator that labor is on the way.

Strong and regular contractions, pain in the lower back, bloody mucus discharge, and your water breaking are all signs to watch out for, not leakage of colostrum.

What happens when colostrum enters the body?

As your breast milk comes to a boil, it is possible you will not be able to express or nurse colostrum until after you deliver. On average, women have colostrum until day 3-5 after birth, according to Schooler.

What is the appearance of colostrum?

Colostrum is often described as thick and yellow or gold in color. Generally, its less milky and milky than breast milk that comes in a few days after your child is born. However, Silverman notes, Colostrum can be many different colors. It can be clear, creamy, white, yellow, or even orange.

How do I say colostrum in the hand?

If you have never previously hand-expressed milk, you'll be a bit intimidated, but you'll get used to it pretty quickly. If a lactation consultant is available to you, they'll show you how to do it in person.

  • Grab a clean, sterile container.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Apply warm compresses and massage your breasts to soften them before you hand express.
  • Hold your breast between your thumb and the rest of your fingers in a C-shape position.
  • Gently press your fingers towards your chest wall and then compress your thumb and fingers together. You may have to do this a few times to see the colostrum surface.
  • Collect the colostrum with the sterile container.
  • Be patient. This may take time. If you dont see any colostrum, take a break from trying to hand express.

What time does colostrum last?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colostrum can be stored for four hours on the countertop, four days in the refrigerator, and six months in the freezer.

Be patient and be careful not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to harvesting colostrum. Even if your baby isn't born, you still have a good chance of getting it later on, and that's still equally beneficial. Harvesting is an excellent activity, but it's not essential.

Sources interviewed:

Sarah Schooler, MSN, RN, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and lead consultant at Thrive Lactation Center

Melanie Silverman, MS, RD, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and President of Pacify Health

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