What is colostrum and how much does my baby need

What is the big deal about colostrum and how much does my baby really need?

Colostrum, AKA Liquid Gold is the first milk produced and offers the ideal nutrition for newborn babies. It provides many health benefits such as: 

  • High in antibodies and other components that protect the baby from pathogens
  • Helps strengthen your baby’s immune system
  • Easy to digest
  • Coats the intestines to help establish a healthy gut
  • Acts as a powerful laxative to help your baby clear meconium (their first poop) and reduces the chance of jaundice

A common concern of new moms is whether or not they are producing enough milk for their baby from the get-go, so let’s review some important factors that help clarify this.

How much colostrum is really needed?

Colostrum is low in quantity, allowing the baby to learn to breastfeed before abundant milk arrives. Your baby should be nursing 10-12 times a day. The more chances they have to practice, the more skill they will develop in breastfeeding. If you are hand expressing, it’s helpful to note that most women express only a few droplets of colostrum milk initially as they become accustomed to milk expression.

The best way to tell that your baby is receiving enough colostrum is by their number of wet/dirty diapers and growth/weight.  It is expected that there will be 4 stools per day by day 4. In the first 5 days of life, full-term newborn babies typically lose 7% or less of their birth weight. 

To ensure your baby is transferring colostrum, you can begin feeds at optimal times (quiet alert and when you see rapid eye movement) and then listen for suck-to-swallow patterns during feeds. 

If colostrum continues to be expressed beyond 4 days postpartum, a maternal medical evaluation should be considered to ensure there isn’t an issue such as retained placental fragments or other factors that could negatively impact milk production. 

Around day 5, abundant milk has typically arrived, and full-term healthy babies should gain 1 ounce or more per day, be back at birth weight by 12-14 days of age, and will wake up approximately every 3 hours to feed until they surpass 10 pounds. Weight gain for preemies will depend on their size, gestational age, and health, which will be assessed and closely monitored in the hospital.  

The most important takeaway is that colostrum is very low in quantity yet packed with nutrients for a reason – to give your baby the nutrients it needs while they learn to breastfeed before the abundant milk arrives! It’s important to relax and enjoy these initial moments of bonding, and not worry if you aren’t seeing an ample milk supply in the early days.

Learning about feeding cues, proper positioning/latch, and making sure to bond/breastfeed often will help set you up for a successful breastfeeding journey and ensure your baby is receiving enough milk. 

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