I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but before doing it, I couldn't imagine what nursing would actually be like. It seemed so foreign, and I was riddled with questions. Would I even be able to? Would I make enough milk? Then, minutes after my daughter was born, I saw her little face make its way to my nipple, and instinctively start nursing. It was one of the most powerful and primal things I've ever experienced. I felt proud of my body and of my baby. But then you start to wonder if your colostrum has even come in yet. Was she getting enough — if any — of the so-called liquid gold?
Colostrum, or liquid gold as it's commonly known, has many health benefits for a newborn. "Colostrum is the antibody- and nutrient-rich first milk that’s produced by mom during her pregnancy, and in the first few days after delivery," explains Angie Natero, BSN, RN, IBCLC, in an interview with Romper. "It is the biological optimum food for human babies and it gives them the best possible start at life. Gut health, blood sugar regulation, digestion, and immunity are just a few of the numerous benefits."
What's more, colostrum helps resolve jaundice by encouraging more stools (colostrum is a natural laxative), according to Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, with Oasis Lactation Services, in an interview with Romper.
So, when exactly does colostrum come in? It turns out that this liquid gold is being produced even before you enter the third trimester. "Colostrum is made in the breast tissue about half way through pregnancy. During the course of normal lactation, colostrum is present in the breast even if you never see it leak, or never hand express out a drop," explains Spradlin.
In fact, your colostrum production may be entirely unnoticeable. "It’s important to note that [colostrum] is often in very tiny amounts and many moms will not notice that’s it’s there and that’s okay. On the other hand, some moms will notice some leakage and again that’s equally okay and normal. No need to worry," advises Natero.
Then, after giving birth, your colostrum supply increases. "Once the baby and placenta are delivered, hormone changes signal the breasts to increase the volume of colostrum produced and slowly change it to mature milk," says Spradlin. "Colostrum is designed to be fed frequently in very small doses. It's very normal for babies to take in colostrum hourly for the first 48 hours of life."
However, when you're breastfeeding your baby directly, you're not seeing the colostrum, and in my case, that made me question my supply. I must admit, shortly after my daughter's birth, I did self-express a drop just to reassure myself that it was there, that I was making some. "After birth many moms worry that the small quantity of colostrum that their body is making won’t be enough, but rest assured baby’s have tiny tummies in the beginning and most often it’s the perfect amount of food for the new baby that nurses often," explains Natero.
Colostrum may be 'baby superfood,' but it's a fleeting one. In fact, the production of colostrum increases and then wanes relatively quickly. In fact, just a couple of days after birth, the makeup of your milk is already changing. "Colostrum is present until mom's milk transitions in after the birth of her baby. This will occur somewhere between day 2 and 4 usually, but again, at times this can vary some as well. Often first-time moms' milk takes a little longer to transition in versus the multiparous moms in my experience, but again that’s not a hard fast rule," explains Natero.
If you find yourself experiencing some anxiety around breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can be an invaluable resource.
"If a mom has any worries over her colostrum or milk supply, I highly recommend her reaching out to a IBCLC in her area for a great breastfeeding class or one-on-one consul," advises Natero.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.