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Colostrum Harvesting

Colostrum Harvesting 

So you’ve probably heard people talk about colostrum harvesting, or your midwife may have given you some syringes “in preparation.” It’s a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason. So what is exactly is it and what is the point of it? 


What is colostrum? 

Firstly, we need to know what colostrum itself is, before we can think about what harvesting it entails. Colostrum is the first substance produced by a mother's breasts after giving birth. It’s a type of special milk, often referred to as "liquid gold," because it can appear yellow in colour. It can also be clear, white, and/or cloudy too! It is rich in antibodies, nutrients and incredible protective properties that help protect your newborn baby from illnesses and infections and provided them with a strong foundation for their health and development as they grow up. Colostrum feels similar to an eye serum. It is thick and smooth, and fantastically filled with everything your new baby needs. It also lines their gut in the first few days of life, which reduces the chance of them having gut issues and food sensitivities later in life.  

Colostrum in a syringe

Why do we need to do colostrum harvesting? 

You don’t need to do Colostrum Harvesting, it’s optional. There are numerous benefits to colostrum harvesting, but it’s not game over if you don’t want to or can’t. Colostrum Harvesting is simply collecting some colostrum ahead of time; to have on hand in case your baby needs it. The main reason for doing it is to have a back-up plan which doesn’t involve formula. Baby’s tummies are very sensitive when they are first born, and the proteins in cow’s milk-based products can aggravate them. Having some pre-collected colostrum can be very useful.  


Having a medicated birth (epidural, the oxytocin drip, antibiotics etc) can cause your baby to be born a bit sleepy and sluggish. This therefore leads them to feed at the breast less efficiently. Colostrum breaks down the drugs, but they can be too sleepy to feed well enough to get the colostrum needed. Having some pre-collected colostrum in a syringe can be helpful to give to them to help it along. This can be particularly helpful in the case of an induction or caesareans. (Always follow the guidance of trained medical staff, and ensure you hand express from your breasts any time you give your baby harvested colostrum, so your body still gets the message to make more.) 

Woman doing hand expressing

Having some harvested colostrum can also be really helpful for babies whose mum had gestational diabetes as it can help control their blood sugars quickly, or if a baby is born a little early. 


So how do I do it? 

You need to get a colostrum harvesting syringe (or multiple) from your midwife or purchase from somewhere like “my expert midwife.” Make sure you are nice and relaxed, somewhere private, and comfortable (think about your oxytocin). With clean hands, taking each breast at a time, gently cup your thumb and forefinger around your areola in a “C” position, and gently squeeze/massage to stimulate the milk flow. You are hand expressing to release the colostrum. You can then collect the droplets in the syringe as they leave your breast. You can watch a video about it HERE.

Colostrum in syringes

Colostrum harvesting should not be painful, so adjust your technique or get medical support if it is. You can start harvesting colostrum from 37 weeks pregnant, and start by doing it once daily, gradually increasing it to twice daily if you want to. There is no hard and fast rule about it as everyone is different. You can start by collecting small amounts, around half a millilitre each session, and gradually increase to 1 millilitre over time as your supply increases. The amount you collect during pregnancy isn’t an indicator of your milk supply once your baby is here, so don’t worry if you aren’t collecting large volumes. It’s more important to learn the hand expressing technique, to give you confidence for when you need it later.  

Woman doing hand expressing

Once you have filled a syringe, label it and freeze it, ready to take to the hospital with you in a cool bag. Taking around 3 syringes into hospital is usually plenty, and many parents don’t need to use them. Your body is constantly producing it, and so it won’t run out. The more colostrum (and the same applies to milk) that you remove from your breast the more your body will make. So any you collect and don’t use won’t be a waste. You will make more. 


If you want to read more about it, here are some good places to read: 


Thinking about all the things you need and want to do during pregnancy can be hard going mentally. Here are some other blog posts which may be useful: 


If you are wanting Hypnobirthing support to help you prepare for labour, email me at victoriabeautifulstarts@gmail.com or DM me my social media (Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok).


You can read information about my different courses HERE.

 

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