Colostrum is the first milk that your body produces, beginning in the third or fourth month of your pregnancy and continuing through -the first week of breastfeeding. It is thick and yellowish in colour and differs from mature milk. Studies show that in India 51% of the mothers do not give colostrum to the new born often discarding it thinking it is ‘dirty’ milk. -Mothers are unaware that colostrum is - “liquid gold” - as it has amazing benefits –for new born babies. In Sanskrit, it is called ‘peeyusha’. It is low in carbohydrates and fat, and high in protein, which makes it extremely easy to digest. It is loaded with essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins like A and K, zinc and antibodies, which help build the new born’s immunity which is very essential for the new born It is the first immunization to the infant.
While colostrum may seem low in volume, it is tailored to suit the newborn’s needs. Breast feeding mothers on an average produce 40-50ml colostrum in the first 48 – 72 hours after birth, which is enough to keep the baby’s stomach full. As you begin to breastfeed more often (a newborn needs at least 8 – 12 feeds in 24 hours), your breasts will produce more mature milk. This milk will thereafter increase in volume and generally begin to appear thinner and whiter and is the source of sustenance for the baby.
It is best to start breastfeeding within an hour or so after birth so your baby can receive the colostrum right away.
Here’s why colostrum is the perfect food for your baby:
- Colostrum contains large amounts of protective substances and enhances the development and maturation of the baby’s gastrointestinal tract.
- It prepares the digestive tract for the mature milk that the baby will receive in the next couple of days.
- Colostrum has a laxative effect on the baby, helping him/her pass his/her early stools, which aids in the excretion of excess bilirubin and helps prevent jaundice.
- Colostrum is like a vaccine. It contains large quantities of an antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA protects the baby from infections like small pox, polio, measles and influenza.
- It contains enzymes like lysozyme etc. which promote cell maturation.
- It contains leukocytes, protective white cells, which can destroy disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Breast feeding in not only beneficial to your baby but also to you. It helps you bond early and quickly with your baby. It calms you and the baby while it nourishes and protects her. And indeed it helps to start early – colostrum or the first milk is essential to build a strong base for your baby.