What is Colostrum Harvesting?
Your body will usually start to produce colostrum at the start of your second trimester of pregnancy. So you already have this pre-milk substance ready for when your baby arrives. You may or may not notice any leaking - if you don’t it doesn’t mean you don’t have any.
Colostrum is yellow and it’s quite sticky, a little thicker than your mature milk will be and has a much higher concentration of immune factors, protein and lots of friendly bacteria and gut bacteria making it the ideal first food for your newborn who hasn’t digested anything before. And this benefit will stay with your baby throughout their lives as their gut has been sealed with this amazing colostrum.
1 ml of colostrum contains over a million protective immune factors for your baby!
So why would you express colostrum antenatally?
The process of learning to hand express can help you prepare for breastfeeding. You start to see your breasts in their new role to feed your baby. You build confidence massaging, shaping your breast and hand expressing which will help when you start to breastfeed your newborn and can encourage your milk to flow before latching them on. It may mean you don’t need a midwife to hand express colostrum for you in the hospital as you’ll know how to do it yourself.
It’s worth mentioning here that an electric breast pump isn’t suitable for this. Even when trying to express mature milk, women tend to express more hand expressing so it’s a good skill to master.
Having a supply of syringes of liquid gold means you have a ready supply of food for your baby should you need to be separated from them for a time after birth. It also takes the pressure off when you start to learn to latch your baby on, which is awkward at first, and you can soothe a hungry baby with your ready-made supply as the two of you learn how to do things.
It’s generally believed to be safe to start expressing colostrum after 37 weeks pregnant.
For women with low risk pregnancies or with diabetes, antenatal expressing is safe and doesn’t not put your baby at risk. However, do check with your midwife that there are no concerns around you expressing colostrum antenatally before you begin. Your hospital may also have classes you can attend that teach you how to hand express colostrum and they may be able to supply you with syringes.
It’s likely that you’ll need a few sessions before you actually express any liquid and even then it may only be 1 ml or so at a time. But every milliliter counts as a newborn tummy is so small, approximately the volume of a teaspoon which is 5 ml.
How can I express colostrum?
Watch my Free Breastfeeding Masterclass for a demonstration on how to hand express colostrum.