Breastfeeding can be tricky, especially right at first. Many mamas find expressing and feeding their colostrum to be helpful in their early breastfeeding journey. Colostrum, often referred to as “liquid gold,” is the first milk produced by a mother’s body. While it might not appear in the same quantities as mature milk, its concentrated nature is designed to provide your newborn with a powerful combination of nutrients and immune-boosting properties. Rich in antibodies, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, colostrum acts as your baby’s first line of defense against infections and sets the stage for a healthy immune system. I found hand-expressing colostrum to be helpful after both of my births as there were times when the baby was too sleepy to nurse, and I didn’t want too long to go without them eating. Whatever your reason may be, here are some helpful tips about expressing colostrum.
- Why Express: If you are having trouble getting your newborn to latch or are worried if they are getting enough, it is perfectly fine to express and feed some colostrum.
- Hand Expression: Hand expression is often the preferred method for colostrum due to its small volume. Have a spoon or small cup to collect your colostrum. Use your thumb and fingers to massage out the milk. Place your thumb and fingers slightly beyond your areola line and gently squeeze them forward. You are literally milking yourself so if it feels like that, you’re doing it right! It is totally normal to only get a few drops.
- Pumping: It can be difficult to pump colostrum with a breast pump because of its thick consistency and small quantity. Expressing by hand is typically easier, but that may change when your milk starts to transition. When pumping, you should feel a nice pull but not be in pain.
- Quantity: Colostrum, especially in the beginning is produced in very small amounts. Newborns have little bellies and colostrum is incredibly nutrient-dense. If the baby seems satisfied and is having the correct amount of dirty and wet diapers, things are probably going fine.
- Storage: Colostrum can be stored in small, sterile syringes, containers, or bags designed for breast milk storage. Label them with the date and time, and keep them in the fridge or freezer.
- Hydration and Nutrition: Stay well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support your body’s milk production.
- Patience: Don’t be discouraged if you initially see only a few drops. Colostrum is produced in small quantities, but every drop is precious.
- Spoon or Cup Feed: You can feed your baby colostrum by just gently pouring very small amounts into their mouth with a spoon or small cup. You can gently open their mouth with your clean fingers to do so. Pour the small amount onto their tongue and let them close their mouth and swallow. If you have any concerns, ask a medical professional to help you.
- Syringe: If you use a syringe, gently open the baby’s mouth and insert a very small amount of milk in at a time. Allow the baby to close their mouth and swallow.
- Bottle Feed: If you do choose to use a bottle, opt for a slow-flow bottle.
As you embark on this journey, remember that each drop of colostrum is a gift of nourishment, protection, and love for your newborn. You are doing great!