Your Milk Is Medicine: The Magic of Colostrum by Adrienne Fuson, IBCLC, LD

Your earliest milk is called colostrum. It is chock-full of protein and immune system cells which coat the lining of your baby’s gut and prevent lifelong health issues. It even contains stem cells from your own immune system, ready to turn into whatever immune cells your baby needs. As an extra bonus, your milk is also food and contains everything your baby needs to thrive. Your body has been making this special milk since halfway through your pregnancy. You can take advantage of this by expressing and storing this medicine before your baby is even born. Check with your doctor or midwife first,since milk expression can sometimes increase contractions.

Most mamas start expressing and storing their early milk around 38 weeks of pregnancy. It takes a little bit of practice at first. Don’t expect gallons of milk, either. Since your earliest milk is thick and rich in protein, it will come out mostly by the drop. If you think about the size of your newborn babe’s stomach, however, the small amount makes sense. At birth, your baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble. So several drops of milk (about 10 cc or even less is what most babies take per meal in the first day) is perfect.

Select a small, clean container (glass baby food jars work well), watch the following video, and collect your own “liquid gold” just in case your baby needs it. You can also use a high-quality breast pump. Many mothers find they get more milk out using their hands, massaging or hand expressing, before, during, or after they pump. Just as with the rest of parenting, you will figure out what works the best for you. Freeze your milk. When you go into labor, if you are going to birth in the hospital, bring your frozen milk in a small cooler and have the staff put it in the freezer. Keep it frozen since that way, if it isn’t needed, you can give it to your baby when he or she has their first illness.

Why bother expressing milk even before your baby arrives? If you are the type of person for whom preparation feels calming, it can be a great choice. If you are having any worries about your baby’s health, having your expressed colostrum on hand, the ultimate medicine for your baby, can be an empowering experience for you as well as extremely beneficial to your babe. For example, the most common newborn health issues are jaundice and hypoglycemia; for both of these problems, the solution is to feed the baby. You can nurse your baby frequently and express milk into a teaspoon to feed your baby if he or she needs more.

If you bring your expressed milk and there is an immediate need for it, your baby’s caregiver will have a ready supply of medicine on hand. If your birth may be higher risk, such as a planned or unplanned cesarean birth or multiples birth, or if you have health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes, your baby has an increased chance of needing the medicinal components in your colostrum. If you don’t use it then, you can give it later to your little one. Frozen milk, kept from thawing, lasts for about six months in your freezer!

Hand Expression Video

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