What if I told you that there was an immunity-boosting, nutrient-packed superfood that helps newborns thrive…and it didn’t cost a cent. And, in fact, your body automatically makes this super-powered substance. It’s not magic…it’s colostrum!

What is colostrum?

You probably know that it takes two to four days for breastmilk to come in after giving birth. That’s the usual time it takes from the first suckle to having your breasts become full of milk. So, if the milk hasn’t come in, yet, what the heck is your baby slurping down on day one? Ah…that’s the very precious liquid called colostrum.

When do you produce colostrum?

A pregnant person’s body begins brewing colostrum during the second half of pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, it’s possible you’ve already noticed a tiny amount of yellowish substance oozing out of your nipple in the shower or in your bra. (The old term for that is “witch’s milk.")

How is colostrum different from breast milk?

Colostrum is an incredible superfood, packed with nutrients, antibodies, and even with white blood cells to give tender vulnerable babies a huge boost of protection against the outside world of germs and microbes. Unlike mature breastmilk, which is thin and watery, colostrum is thick, sticky and yellow or cream colored. (Note: The yellow color comes from carotene, the nutrient that gives carrots their color.)

What are the benefits of colostrum?

Colostrum is a perfect first meal for your baby, delivering a powerful combination of carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies in a small, easy-to-digest amount. Amazingly, the breasts also mix huge amounts of illness fighting white blood cells into the colostrum, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “white blood.” With every swallow of colostrum, this special pre-milk flows down into your baby’s stomach and intestine to coat it with a tiny army of protective antibodies and cells.  

Additional colostrum benefits:

And, if that wasn’t incredible enough, colostrum has even more benefits for baby’s health and development! It:

  • protects the mucous membranes in the throat and lungs
  • is a laxative, helping baby push out the sticky meconium (aka your lovebug’s first poop)
  • helps prevent jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) by clearing out the meconium
  • boosts the growth of “good” bacteria—probiotics—in your baby’s digestive tract
  • feeds your baby’s brain, eyes, and heart for optimal growth
  • helps prevent low blood sugar in full-term babies

Colostrum benefits for pre-term babies:

And for pre-term babies, colostrum can be a literal lifesaver. Colostrum helps get a pre-term baby’s immature digestive tract ready to handle food, and it is much better tolerated than infant formula.

When should my baby start eating colostrum?

Babies are born with a strong instinct to suck, so it is a good idea to offer your baby the breast within an hour or so of giving birth. Babies are often pretty sleepy on that first day, but when your little one is awake, offering the breast every hour gives little sips of colostrum and stimulates your milk production to bring the mature milk. Early nursing also benefits moms by signaling the uterus to contract, reducing maternal blood loss.

Don’t worry if the volume of colostrum seems small. Your body produces exactly what your baby needs. A newborn’s stomach is quite small, so several spoons of colostrum per day is plenty.

Although newborn babies only need tiny “meals,” they do need to eat often (eight to 12 times a day).

How long will I produce colostrum?

There are three stages of breastmilk production, and the colostrum stage is short and sweet:

  1. Colostrum: Produced exclusively for the first 2-5 days after birth.
  2. Transitional milk: A combination of colostrum and breastmilk that lasts a few weeks.
  3. Mature breastmilk: It comes in between 2 and 4 weeks. It is 90% water, and the rest is carbohydrates, protein and fats.

Even after your milk has come in, there will still be small traces of colostrum in your milk for up to six weeks postpartum. This is the most important food you can give your baby! 

[Read More: Breastmilk and Breastfeeding]

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.