he female body is unbelievable. Before I had front row seats to our pregnancy and birth, I didn’t fully appreciate the magic that goes on beneath the surface to bring a human into the world.
From Conception, a literal metamorphosis begins and the body transforms into a vessel capable of growing another human inside of it. Russian doll style.
What a lot of people don’t realise however is the magic doesn’t stop when the baby is in your arms, it’s only just beginning.
To fully understand what is happening inside a woman’s body just after they give birth you need a higher education than I have and frankly, you don’t need to know the science to appreciate it. Of the dozens of biochemical processes taking place, I want to talk about one of the most important ones.
A little known type of breast milk called colostrum, or ‘liquid gold', or ‘the super serum’.
Move over Steve Rogers...
That's right, there are different types of breast milk. Mind blown.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking ‘why is this guy obsessed with this stuff?’. That may be a valid thought but bear with me, things get very cool, very fast.
As we dive into this article I want to keep you abreast (get it?) of some questions that I will be answering. What is colostrum?, What does colostrum look like? What is colostrum good for? How do you collect colostrum?
All of these and more are answered below. Let’s nerd out...
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the type of breast milk that is produced immediately after giving birth (or just before, see below). It’s produced by the mammary glands of all mammals and in humans, it’s produced when hormones are released by the placenta.
It’s nutrient-dense, full of protein, low in sugar and fats and is jam-packed with white blood cells that produce antibodies.
Here are some of the components that make up Colostrum (incoming science talk).
- Immunoglobulin A - antibodies
- Lactoferrin - helps ward off infection
- Leukocytes - white blood cells
- Epidermal growth factor - stimulates cell growth.
- Magnesium - bone and heart development
- Carotenoids - an antioxidant
- Vitamin A - immune support
As you can see, colostrum is amazing stuff that is highly beneficial for your baby in the first couple of days after birth.
What does colostrum look like?
The vitamin A and carotenoids in colostrum give it a rich yellow/orange colour. It’s a little thicker than the mature breast milk we all know and love, and slowly transitions to the familiar eggshell white colour in a couple of days.
What does colostrum taste like?
It’s delicious! I had my wife freeze a bunch and I add it to my smoothies every morning.
I didn’t try it, but if you have, let me know!
What is colostrum good for?
Colostrum does some super important things in the first couple of days of a baby's life.
It can fight infection, supports your baby's immune system, helps prevent jaundice and is even a mild laxative to help get that meconium out (newborn poo).
When your baby is first born, they need to learn how to suck and breathe properly while feeding. The colostrum has a low flow rate so it’s not too overwhelming and allows them to learn slowly. No one likes drinking out of a fire hose.
Lastly, one of the coolest things about colostrum, and breast milk, in general, is that it is custom made especially for your baby. The mother's body knows what the baby needs and creates it IN REAL TIME.
Do you need to collect colostrum?
When our son was born, he and Katie had a tough time breastfeeding. He just wouldn’t latch on properly and wasn’t getting enough food the old fashioned way. Luckily we had a freezer full of colostrum that we could supplement with.
After every feed, I would stick my pinky finger in his mouth, put the tip of the syringe there next to it and slowly pump it in.
As a side note, it was our first moment of bonding and I’m super grateful that I could do that for him. It’s usually the mum that get’s that pleasure.
Without this backup, it would have been really difficult for us to get enough nutrients in him for those first few days. I would recommend having a stash if you can.
How do you collect colostrum?
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, you can collect small amounts of colostrum by ‘hand expressing’ it from the nipple/s. I won’t go into hand expressing here as it’s your partner that will most likely be doing it but here’s a great guide with illustrations.
What you can do though is be in charge of catching the stuff as it comes out. Handy tools like the Colostrum collector can be used to (I want to say harvest it?), or you can use sterile, food grade syringes to suck it up. There isn’t much that comes out so don’t be alarmed if you only get a few drops. Your newborn's stomach is only the size of a cherry so you don’t need much for a feed.
You then freeze your collected colostrum for use in the first few days after birth. We had a large container full of them in the freezer with little dates written on them so we knew which ones to use first.
Just keep in mind that you have to freeze it within 24hrs and you can only keep it for 3 months
Why should you learn about Colostrum?
After reading this I hope you get as excited about colostrum and breastmilk as I do. It’s truly incredible and is often overlooked by us dads.
The reason I write about this stuff is that I want every new dad to feel connected to the process of bringing their kids into the world, be excited about getting their hands dirty (literally) and dive in headfirst to support their partners.
If we can be more involved in every step of the process, the transition into fatherhood will be a smooth one.
Now go and impress your partner and drop some dope colostrum facts.
Let’s go full dad mode!
Cya in the next one x