What Is Colostrum and What Are Its Benefits?

What Is Colostrum and What Are Its Benefits?

Last update: 09 September, 2018

The yellowish liquid that women start to secrete during the end of pregnancy and after giving birth is nothing more than colostrum. For many reasons, it is an important substance for the first days of a baby’s life.

Colostrum is a yellowish liquid that is secreted by the breast. It has a high content of proteins and minerals.

The production of colostrum is carried out when the mammary glands are preparing to generate milk which will serve as the exclusive food for the baby during the first six months of life.

While there are women who start to produce colostrum during the last months of pregnancy, you shouldn’t worry if that isn’t your case. Some women only start to produce it once the child is born.

At first, only a few drops of colostrum are secreted. This however, is no reason for concern; during the first days, babies only need a small quantity of colostrum. Although it’s produced in small quantities, it’s very rich in nutrients and efficiently absorbed by babies.

Benefits of colostrum

Colostrum is very important for the baby during the first days after childbirth. Together with breast milk which will be incorporated a little later, it constitutes the basis of the necessary diet for this important stage of a baby’s life.

Here are a few benefits that colostrum provides:

  • Great source of vitamins, minerals and calories. Almost all of the nutrients that a baby requires during the first days can be found in high concentration in colostrum.
  • Provides protection against diseases.
  • Stimulates the first stool known as meconium. Meconium is dark green stool, composed of the epithelial cells of the intestines, water, amniotic fluid and bile.

“The concentration of nutrients in colostrum is very high, therefore, it is a very efficient food source.”

5 frequently asked questions about colostrum

When should it be given to the baby?

In most cases, babies are fed colostrum for the first 48 to 72 hours after childbirth. If childbirth was achieved through a cesarean section, this period may be extended for a few more hours.

When does its production begin?

Colostrum starts to be produced during the second trimester. During this stage, some pregnant women may notice that their clothes begin to get stained by small amounts of yellowish liquid.

Most pregnant women start to perceive it during the last days of their pregnancy. Its production occurs through a completely natural process.

What Is Colostrum?

When does breast milk production begin?

Approximately three days after childbirth, women may notice that their colostrum increases in quantity. This occurs due to the stimulation created by the child while breastfeeding. As a result, this stimulates the production of breast milk, which from now on will be the main source of energy for the baby.

What color is colostrum?

Due to its high content of beta-carotenes, colostrum has a yellowish color tone. If on the other hand, you notice that your colostrum has a pink or brown color, it could mean that it’s mixed with blood from the breast ducts. There is no need for concern if this occurs. However, it is always best to consult your doctor if you have any doubts.

How much colostrum should you provide for your baby?

During the first days after childbirth, babies should be breastfed whenever they show signs of hunger for two important reasons. The first reason is that it prepares the woman’s body for the production of breast milk.

The second reason is that although babies don’t have a lot of nutritional needs during the first few days, the nutrients that they ingest will form the basis for their growth and maturation. This is especially true when it comes to the development of their immune system.

What Is Colostrum?

What does colostrum contain?

As we previously stated, colostrum is an indispensable source of nutrients for babies during the first days after childbirth. Here are a few important components of this special milk:

  • Amino acids which are fundamental for cellular metabolism.
  • Immunoglobulins allow the body to defend itself against infections and other threats.
  • Vitamins allow for the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
  • Cytokines contain antivirals and play an important role in the development of joints.
  • Leucocytes contribute to the immune system.

Colostrum contains many other elements that are important for various functions. It also plays an important role when it comes to growth and immunity.

Although colostrum is only produced in limited quantities, it plays an important role in the lives of newborns. It’s important to emphasize once again, the importance of breastfeeding at the start of a baby’s life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Parra, S. G., Hernández, Á. M., & Cravioto, A. (2002). Inmunoprotección por leche humana. Revista Mexicana de Pediatría, 69(3), 111-119. https://www.medigraphic.com/cgi-bin/new/resumen.cgi?IDARTICULO=9630
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  • Reyes Vázquez H. (2011). Características de la leche materna. En: Reyes Vázquez H, Martínez González A. Lactancia Humana. Bases para lograr su éxito. 1a ed. México: Editorial Médica Panamericana; 2011. p. 80-6.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.