The Essential Guide on How to Collect Colostrum
When you intend to breastfeed, you should know that the milk isn’t produced until several days after you give birth. In the beginning, you’ll produce colostrum, which is a thick, sticky liquid that has tons of antibodies in it, which in turn strengthens the baby’s immune system. Colostrum is important to a baby’s development and cannot be reproduced in any type of baby formula. This is why many moms and expectant moms collect and store their colostrum for when the baby comes.
Why Do Some Moms Store Colostrum?
Before we talk about how to store colostrum, let’s talk about why so many moms are starting to do this. Simply put, colostrum is amazing for a baby’s immune system, and it cannot be replicated in a lab. Colostrum has both antibodies and other healthy ingredients, including the right amounts of protein, fats, and sugar. If you have a premature birth, it is even more important to give your baby colostrum.
This being said, some mothers run into challenges when they’re giving birth and aren’t able to nurse their baby immediately. No one knows in advance that this will happen, so collecting colostrum and storing it for future use is becoming more and more commonplace. If you do this, your baby is still able to enjoy this nutrient-rich first food even if you can’t breastfeed.
Of course, even if you are able to nurse right away, many mothers still like having colostrum around because there is no such thing as your immune system being too strong. Moms can easily feed their baby the colostrum instead of or even in addition to breast milk. Many times, moms-to-be will collect and then store the colostrum in syringes in order to feed it to the baby in small doses and so none of it is wasted.
When Should You Collect Colostrum?
So, when do you start making colostrum? While pregnant, your body will begin making small amounts of colostrum by 14 to 16 weeks, or three to four months. This does not mean, however, that you should try to collect colostrum this early. Indeed, most doctors recommend that you do not start collecting colostrum until your 36th week and no later than your 39th.
This brings us to the next point, which is this: never collect colostrum until you’ve checked it out with your doctor. While it is a safe thing to do as a general rule, each expectant mom is different. Only your obstetrician will know for sure if this is something you should do. In most cases, the OB-GYN will approve of collecting colostrum, but you’ll want to be sure.
By the 36th week of pregnancy, many women start leaking small amounts of colostrum, and as soon as you get your doctor’s approval, you can start collecting it. How? While you can use a pump, many moms-to-be find that hand-expressing colostrum is much easier. You’re not going to be producing tons of colostrum, so using a pump might be painful.
How to Collect and Store Colostrum
You can collect colostrum both before and after you give birth, but expressing or pumping before birth allows you to have colostrum on hand as soon as the baby arrives. Buy small syringes and make sure that they are sterilized before using them. Start by sterilizing any item you’ll be using, and make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before you do anything.
Single-use syringes work best because remember, you won’t need to give the baby a large dose of colostrum. You can also fill up several syringes and place them in a resealable freezer bag. It’s just easier to grab the bag on your way out to the hospital if you choose to bring them with you when you give birth. You have two options when it comes to storing the colostrum: refrigerate it or freeze it.
If the baby is already here, you can place the colostrum in the refrigerator, where it can remain for up to three to four days. That being said, it’s best to use the colostrum within 48 hours if you can. If the baby doesn’t take all of it at once, you can put it back into the fridge, but be mindful of how long it can stay there. After three to four days, always discard the colostrum.
If you freeze the colostrum, you should put the date and time on the syringe so you always use the oldest ones first. Colostrum can remain in the freezer for up to 12 months, but most experts believe that using it within six months is best for the baby. Once you open a syringe of colostrum that’s been frozen, it should be used within 24 hours.
When you put the colostrum in the freezer, put it in the back of the freezer where it’s the coldest. Never mix fresh and frozen colostrum in the same syringe, and never place the colostrum in the door of the freezer or the fridge because the temperature can fluctuate. It is not difficult to collect and store colostrum for your baby, but you need to be aware of a few “do”s and “don’t”s first.
Collecting and storing colostrum for after your baby arrives is a good idea for many reasons, and you can start in your 36th week in most cases. Always check it out with your doctor before collecting the colostrum, and the easiest way to do this is to hand-express or pump to get the colostrum out. Afterwards, store it in small single-use syringes in your freezer for after the baby arrives.
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