Antenatal Expression of Colostrum
Colostrum is the highly nutritive, antibody-packed fluid your breasts produce before your milk comes in, and there are a lot of reasons you can and should start expressing this fluid before baby even arrives—as early as 37 weeks into your pregnancy. While it might seem odd to start expressing before there’s a baby to feed, there are some massive benefits to starting early.
Helps increase colostrum at birth, and brings transitional milk in more quickly.
Decreases chance of jaundice and hypoglycemia.
Improves newborn weight gain and decreases the likelihood of needing formula.
Provides additional colostrum, stored before baby is born.
Helps mother be more comfortable with hand expression.
You’ll want to hand-express several times a day if possible—or as often as you can. Jane Morton of the Stanford Medical Center has some great information here on how to hand-express. Colostrum is worth its weight in gold, and you’ll want to save every drop. Use any food-safe bag, and freeze until baby is born. Don’t worry if it seems like you’re not getting much colostrum from your hand-expression. The stimulation alone is helpful in increasing the amount of colostrum your body produces, and will bring your milk in more quickly once baby is born.
In my experience with my clients, mothers who hand-express prior to birth experience increased breastmilk production earlier on, giving baby a better chance at thriving. Although I have yet to see a mother go into labor from antenatal expression, it is still recommended to wait until baby is at 37 weeks gestation.
This practice is especially recommended for first time mothers, mothers with polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, thyroid issues, insufficient glandular tissue, or supply issues with previous children.
Once baby is born, your stored colostrum can be warmed and administered in small amounts as a supplement after every breastfeeding session. I recommend using a spoon, small cup, or syringe. Below you’ll find a video on how to cup-feed a newborn.
Baby Bonds is a Boise-based company that serves mothers with lactation support, postpartum doula care, and teaches infant massage. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find our contact information here.