BreastfeedingWhat is colostrum and why is it so important and beneficial

What is colostrum and why is it so important and beneficial

The nutritional composition of colostrum, along with its benefits and properties make it an essential food for the newborn.

When a woman gives birth, her mammary glands secrete a yellowish-white liquid, which ultimately becomes the first milk that is produced, and tends to last between two to five days until the final breast milk begins to be produced. It is what is known by the name of colostrum, and it is one of the most important foods in your life.

As many lactation experts state, it is possible to differentiate between two types of colostrum, depending on the time in which it is produced. Thus, for example, we can speak of the existence of a precalostrum, and of finally the appearance of the colostrum itself.

What is precalostro?

The precalostrum is the fluid that the mammary glands produce during pregnancy. When conception occurs, and the fetus begins to develop inside the mother, her breasts are prepared for the moment in which she gives birth and breastfeeding begins.

For this reason, secretions of small amounts of liquid tend to appear that can stain or wet the blouse.

The most common is that these fluid losses begin to occur in the last months of pregnancy.  On its composition, it contains a small amount of lactose, cells, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, lactoferrin, sodium, plasma and chlorine.

What is colostrum and when does it start to be produced?

While we can speak of pre-collapse to the fluid secreted by the mammary glands during the last months of pregnancy, colostrum is the fluid that they secrete in the first 3 to 4 days after delivery.

It is characterized by being a yellowish-white, thick and somewhat sticky liquid. And it basically consists of a mixture or combination of precalostro with breast milk that the mammary glands begin to produce after the baby is born. Therefore, from the fifth or sixth day, the mother will begin to produce only breast milk, without precaution.

Is the amount of colostrum produced enough to meet the needs of the newborn?

In the first 3 days after delivery, the common is that its volume reaches 20 milliliters per intake, until reaching 84 milliliters on average on the third day. A sufficient quantity to meet the nutritional needs of the newborn.

Amount of colostrum (per day) Newborn stomach capacity
Day 1 37 ml 7 ml
Day 2 50-84 ml 13 ml
Day 3 84-250 ml 27 ml
Day 4 408 ml (breast milk) 27 ml

As we can see, according to the capacity -always approximate- of the baby’s stomach, we can say that the amount of colostrum produced by the mother is more than enough to cover all her nutritional needs.

There is no doubt that colostrum is the best food a baby can eat during the first days of life. For this reason it is known by the name of ‘liquid gold’.

Nutritive composition of colostrum

Many pediatricians coincide in pointing out the tremendous importance that colostrum has for the first days of the baby, since it stands out for being a unique food naturally adapted to the specific needs that the newborn has at that time. Mainly because it contains a series of compounds, substances and vitamins that nourish and protect it:

  • Immunoglobulins:  Immunoglobulins are antibodies (A, D, E, G and M) that help prevent infections that can attack the small organism of the newborn. They are capable of neutralizing viruses, bacteria and toxins.
  • Vitamins:  In colostrum we mainly find vitamins A, B12 and E. In addition, it is known that it possibly also contains smaller amounts of the rest of vitamins.
  • Amino acids:  Essential for the regeneration of cells and the maintenance of an adequate cellular metabolism. They also help to strengthen the immune system.
  • Cytokines:  They are immunotransmitter substances, responsible for stimulating the lymph nodes.
  • Other beneficial substances:  In addition, colostrum also contains essential substances for growth, glycoproteins, lactoferrin, transferrin, lactobacillus bifidus acidophilus (ideal to stimulate digestion and reduce the presence of fungi and bacteria in the digestive system), leukocytes, enzymes, lymphokines , lysozyme, oligopolysaccharides, sulfur, glycoconjugates, endorphins, L-carnitine, melatonin, prolactin, insulin, lactoperoxidase and xanthine oxidase, among others.

In each intake, the nutritional composition of colostrum is as follows: 55 kcal per 90-100 milliliters, 2.9 grams of fat, 4 grams of lactose, and 2.3 grams of protein. That is, it has less fat and less lactose, compared to breast milk that has already matured.

What are the benefits that colostrum brings to the baby?

There is no doubt that colostrum is a wonderful food, the best that a newborn can take in its first days of life. Why? For something very simple: it is a tremendously nutritious and valuable substance, thanks to the fact that it contains a greater amount of protein compared to mature breast milk, and it provides interesting amounts of fats, vitamins and minerals.

It provides essential antibodies to help protect the newborn from infections, strengthening their immune system. It also acts as a laxative, helping to clean the meconium (the baby’s first dark stools) from the little one’s intestines.

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