The first milk that your breasts produce is called colostrum. It's yellow in colour and thicker than other fluids.
When compared with later or mature breast milk, colostrum is richer in:
It is lower in:
- some vitamins
Benefits of colostrum
Colostrum is sometimes called 'liquid gold' because of its importance and colour. It has a lot of antioxidants and antibodies which can help keep your baby healthy.
Colostrum lines your baby's stomach with good bacteria. It also contains compounds that feed the good bacteria and kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Colostrum's main benefit is to prevent infection. It also has a laxative effect to encourage your baby's first bowel movement.
Even though it's normal to only have a small amount, every drop of your colostrum has great health benefits for your baby for the rest of their life.
Sick or premature babies
If your baby is born sick or premature, your colostrum is especially important. This is because it can protect their stomach and immune health which helps them to fight illness.
Colostrum can be given to a premature baby using a cup or syringe. Your nurse or midwife will help you to hand express and collect your colostrum for your baby.
How much colostrum you produce
The volume of colostrum you will produce varies. It is generally between 2ml and 20ml (ml is millilitres) per breastfeed in the first 3 days. It also depends on the number of breastfeeds your baby has in the first 24 hours after birth.
If you have breastfed before, your milk may come in sooner and you'll likely have colostrum in larger amounts.
Mature breast milk
Around 72 hours after the birth of your baby, you will notice your breast milk changing. This is commonly described as your 'milk coming in.'
If you have had a caesarean birth (C-section), this generally takes up to 120 hours. There are other conditions that can delay full milk supply such as gestational diabetes.
Your breast milk will become lighter in colour, thinner and more watery than colostrum. This is known as mature breast milk. You will also notice an increase in breast fullness and breast milk volume.
The rule for breast milk production is supply and demand. Frequent feeding and milk removal mean your breasts will make more milk.