Expert on benefits of Colostrum after a baby's birth, how it is different from breast milk

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 30, 2023 05:18 PM IST

Thinking about breastfeeding and want to learn more? Read on to know what colostrum is, how long it lasts, its benefits and how much your newborn may require it

You may have questioned what the words "first milk", "pre-milk", "early milk" or "practise milk" meant if you've heard them and for the uninitiated, they all refer to colostrum, a type of nutrient-rich milk that comes before your regular breast milk. Whether you've noticed colostrum leaking onto your bra during pregnancy or you're thinking about breastfeeding and want to learn more, it's important to understand what colostrum is, how long it lasts and how much your newborn may require.

Expert on benefits of Colostrum after a baby's birth, how it is different from breast milk (Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash)
Expert on benefits of Colostrum after a baby's birth, how it is different from breast milk (Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash)

What exactly is colostrum?

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tushar Parikh, Chief Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospital in Pune's Kharadi, explained, “Colostrum is a concentrated type of breast milk with immune-boosting benefits for your baby. It contains protein, salts, antibodies, and defensive characteristics that are all useful to your infant. Colostrum has more protein than conventional breast milk but less sugar, fat, and calories. If you're breastfeeding your baby, the first few days after she's born will be colostrum feeds, before your normal breast milk begins to flow.”

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Advantages of colostrum for your newborn

Breastfeeding can begin as soon as your baby is born. Though colostrum benefits all infants, Dr Tushar Parikh highlighted that preterm infants who receive it from their mother's breast have "significantly better health outcomes" than those who do not. The benefits include:

1. Aids in the development of your baby's immune system (contains antibodies and white blood cells).

2. Creates a thick layer on your baby's stomach and intestines to keep infections at bay and inflammation at bay.

3. Helps your infant pass meconium (the black first faeces) by acting as a laxative.

4. Aids in the prevention of jaundice and the removal of hazardous waste products. Learn more about jaundice and nursing.

5. Gives your baby's brain, vision, and heart the nourishment they need to flourish.

6. High in protein, salts and vitamins for full nourishment.

7. Complete nutrients that are easily digestible by your baby's tummy. It is the ideal nourishment for your infant.

8. Aids in the prevention of low blood sugar in infants.

Distinction between colostrum and breast milk

Dr Tushar Parikh said, “During pregnancy, your breasts produce nutrient-rich first milk called colostrum. A few days after your baby is born, it transitions to transitional breast milk. Small amounts of colostrum, on the other hand, can be found in your breast milk for several weeks.”

He listed some important distinctions between colostrum and breast milk as:

1. Colostrum contains immunoglobins, which help to increase your baby's immune system and protect it from sickness.

2. Colostrum has twice as much protein as milk.

3. Colostrum has four times the zinc.

4. Colostrum has less fat and sugar, making it simpler to digest.

5. The colostrum is golden and thicker.

He suggested, "Even if you only produce a tiny amount of colostrum, you should continue to nurse your baby as often as possible at this time. Your newborn's stomach is tiny and they only require a small amount of colostrum for the first few days. Since it is a highly concentrated food, your baby will only require a small amount, about a teaspoonful, at each feeding. Your infant may want to eat often, possibly every hour at first. After a few days, they'll start having fewer but longer feeds as your breasts begin to produce more "mature" milk. The longer you breastfeed, the more your baby's sucking stimulates your production, resulting in more milk."

Dr Tushar Parikh concluded, “Breastfeeding may appear instinctual, but this does not imply that everyone picks it up right away. Get comfortable and don't be too concerned if things don't go as planned at first. If it's extremely painful or if you or your kid is experiencing any other symptoms, don't be afraid to ask for assistance. A timely intervention can ensure a comfortable nursing experience and that your baby does not miss out on the superfood colostrum.”

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