Colostrum: see what it is and when it starts to come out

Human milk is considered the best food for the newborn baby. It is sufficient to supply all the necessary nutrients during the first 6 months of life.

But before this milk starts to be produced by the mother, the colostrum starts to show, already in the end of the pregnancy. He will be responsible for transmitting the first nutrients to the baby.

Its composition is rich in essential nutrients that contribute to the baby’s growth and development, as well as to the maturation of its digestive and intestinal system.

The numerous benefits of colostrum for the infant’s body include immunological aspects that can prevent future diseases.


What is colostrum?

The colostrum is the milk produced by the mother even in late pregnancy and is secreted in the early days after birth until about 7 days after birth.

It is produced in small quantities by the mother’s body, and can vary between 2mL to 20mL per feed in the first 3 days. This amount is proportional to the gastric capacity of the newborn baby.

However, this amount can vary according to each organism, as women who have already breastfed tend to produce it more easily.

The colostrum contains more protein and less fat than mature milk, which is the one that will be produced next. When compared to mature milk, it is also more viscous and has a higher concentration of minerals and vitamins .

In addition, colostrum is rich in defense cells, and is therefore essential for the newborn’s immunology, which receives defenses through breast milk, as its immune system is not yet complete.

Check the table below for the composition of colostrum, every 100mL, according to the Ministry of Health:

Baby born between 37 and 41 weeks of gestation (term) :

  • Calories: 45kcal;
  • Lipids: 1.8g;
  • Proteins: 1.9g;
  • Lactose: 1,9g.

Baby born before 37 weeks of gestation (preterm)

  • Calories: 58kcal;
  • Lipids: 3g;
  • Proteins: 2.1g;
  • Lactose: 5g.

What are the benefits of colostrum for the newborn?

The colostrum is the ideal food for the newborn. It is rich in proteins and nutrients that stimulate the baby’s development, in addition to being fundamental to your immune system.

Here are the main benefits of colostrum for the newborn:

Fights infections

In colostrum are present large amounts of white blood cells, antibodies that protect the body against infections and help the baby develop his own defense.

When the baby is born, it no longer has the protection inside the mother’s womb. Therefore, the antibodies present in colostrum help to prepare your body for the external environment.

Helps in the functioning of the baby’s intestines

The antibodies present in colostrum, in addition to helping to prevent diseases in the baby, still coat your intestinal mucus. This gelatinous secretion, produced by the intestine, lubricates and protects the tract of feces, facilitating evacuation.

Colostrum also has a laxative effect on the newborn, causing it to evacuate frequently. This helps in cleaning the intestines of everything that was ingested in the mother’s womb and that could harm him.

The probiotics contained in colostrum stimulate the development of “good” bacteria in the baby’s intestine and balance the intestinal flora, exerting a beneficial effect on health.

Provides baby vitamins and minerals

Beta carotene and vitamin A present in colostrum are important for the baby’s vision and prevent eye degeneration and cataracts .

In general, the newborn is born with low reserves of vitamin A and colostrum helps to compensate for this deficiency.

It is also rich in minerals such as magnesium and copper, which help the heart function, strengthen the baby’s bones and also help develop the immune system.

There is also zinc, which helps in the development of the newborn’s brain. For this reason, there is about four times more zinc in it than in mature milk.

When does colostrum start to come out?

The colostrum begins to be produced by women around the last trimester of pregnancy (25-42 weeks). At this stage, the hormones responsible for milk production (prolactin and lactogen) are already in action. It may start to leak at the end of pregnancy and in some cases it does not show a sign before delivery.

These variations are normal and happen according to each organism. After the baby is born, colostrum production increases for about a week, which is the time needed to nourish the newborn.

The length of the colostrum period is not well defined due to the wide variation from mother to mother. Some experts consider colostrum to be milk produced from the first to the fifth day postpartum.

Around 5 days after delivery, colostrum begins to undergo changes to later become mature milk, which will serve as food for the baby during the entire period of breastfeeding.

What is the color of colostrum?

Colostrum is a yellowish and often almost orange colored liquid. This happens due to the high content of beta-carotene in its composition, an antioxidant pigment that protects the healthy cells of the organism against the action of free radicals. Its consistency is usually thick and sticky.

It does not look much like the milk that will be produced later by the mother. Colostrum has a salty taste, as it contains potassium and sodium in its composition.

Is leaving colostrum a sign of childbirth?

Colostrum does not always come out of the breast of the pregnant woman to mean that it is a sign of childbirth. It is very normal to leak fluid and discharge from the breasts during pregnancy.

In some women, colostrum leaks well before delivery, in others it may not even show a sign. It is worth mentioning that sexual intercourse during pregnancy can stimulate this leak.

We hope we have managed to resolve the main doubts about colostrum, which is so important for the newborn.

Do you have any more questions that we didn’t mention here? Tell us in the comments.

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