So todays Feeding Friday isn’t a story from one of you lovely lot, but a discussion around antenatal colostrum harvesting, or expressing.
Some of you may have heard of it but I imagine it’s new to a lot of you. Most women don’t need to do it after all, or may only realise it could have been beneficial in hindsight. I fall into that latter category!
Colostrum is the ‘first milk’ our bodies produce during pregnancy and immediately after delivery. It is a thick, concentrated liquid rammed full of goodness, lots of carbs, proteins, and antibodies. It has a milk laxative effect helping babies pass those first sticky meconium poos, and helps to seal the immature gut of the newborn, whilst simultaneously encouraging optimal growth and development throughout the body. You cannot run out of colostrum as your body will continue making it until the hormonal changes which occur post birth / placenta delivery happen, causing your milk to ‘come in’ a few days later. There will always be colostrum/milk in your breast’s for your baby if they are able to latch after birth.
Most of us don’t even think too much about this early ‘superfood’. We simply start from a place of wanting to try to breastfeed and offer it to our babies direct. But for some this isn’t an option, or at least an easy one. Different issues can complicate early breastfeeding, or sugar / weigh maintenance… some of the more widely known reasons to try and express colostrum as a backup before birth if you would prefer to avoid formula include:
- Gestational Diabetes – Babies born to mothers with GD may have a harder time maintaining their blood sugars. A supply of colostrum may help prevent the need for formula feeds in the early hours or days, and research suggests that colostrum is superior in raising blood sugars than formula is (not to mention all the other frigging amazing stuff that’s packed into this liquid gold!!)
- Expecting multiples – if you know you’re more likely to have an earlier delivery or smaller babies due to carrying twins or more (this isn’t a guaranteed outcome by the way!) it worth having some on standby if you can.
- Knowing baby has a congenital condition such as a cleft lip / palate, or Down’s Syndrome which could impact upon their ability to feed at the breast.
- The effect of medications upon one / both of you soon after birth. If for any reason you are unable to breastfeed or baby is away from you initially then it can be reassuring to know they can still access your milk.
There are obviously many more circumstances in which expressed colostrum would be beneficial, or maybe you even just like the idea of having it ‘just in case’. So if its something you’re interested how do you go about it?
- Get hold of some small syringes – 1ml are ideal as the quantity of colostrum produced, and required by baby is tiny and this means there less likely to be wastage. Your care team may be able to provide them depending on your circumstances, or you can order your own sterile ones online cheaply.
- Sit comfortably and starting with clean hands, massage your breast gently in circular movements, slowly moving towards your nipple. Doing this after a warm bath/shower or using a warm compress can help too.
- Gently cup your breast making a C shape with your thumb and fingers, slightly back from your areola and squeeze gently, moving your position if needed. With practice you will find the ideal positioning of your hands and pressure to apply, always starts gently! Initially you may not get any milk at all, or just a few tiny drops. That is okay, and you will probably find in time the amount will increase. My ‘just in case of another tongue tied baby’ expressing. This is 2 days worth of colostrum and I’m genuinely happy with the amount (yes that’s 0.75ml!!) so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t seem like a lot initially!
- Suck any tiny drops directly into a syringe being careful to remove any excess air sucked in whilst not spilling your precious colostrum! If / as you find the flow increases you may be able to express onto a (sterile) spoon or small pot before sucking into a syringe.
- Label any syringes with your name, the date of collection (you can keep adding to a syringe for up to 5 days, but label with the earliest date) and your hospital number, then freeze inside a sterile container – breastmilk storage bags are ideal!
- You can then quickly defrost one at a time if necessary for baby!
There are loads of great resources available online if you need more, or perhaps videos to show the technique of hand expressing, or get in touch with any questions and I’m happy to signpost you.
I still have time for just one private course before I go off to have this kiddo, so if you want more info on birth prep to leave you feeling excited and fully prepared for what’s to come head over here to book, or check out Keri’s group course availability here. Chloe also has availability if your in the Upminster area.
If you’d like to contribute to a Feeding Friday post just get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org