If you’re breastfeeding your newborn for the first time and notice the breast milk looking yellow, don’t be alarmed. First breast milk, also known as colostrum, is golden yellow in color and is produced as early as four months into pregnancy till the first few days after birth. It’s often not noticeable unless you leak during pregnancy. Before we understand everything about colostrum, let’s first get to know a little bit about breast milk as a whole.
Breastfeeding is a crucial part of motherhood post pregnancy. The best part about it is that it not only benefits newborns but is also of great benefit to mothers. Research suggests that it can even protect premenopausal women from breast cancer.1
The production of breast milk begins during pregnancy, during which time many women often experience leaking from their breasts. The type of breast milk produced varies depending on the stage of lactation (breast milk production) and the need of the baby. Every newborn has varying levels of appetite and thirst, and breast milk produced also varies based on this. The composition may also be different between mothers.
The 3 main types of breast milk produced are colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk.
- Colostrum is the first breast milk whose production begins during pregnancy and continues through the initial days of breastfeeding. It is yellow to orange in color and is thick and sticky. It is primarily meant to build your baby’s immune system.
- Transitional milk production begins after colostrum production stops. It marks the onset of lactation in the breast tissue.
- The production of mature milk follows transitional milk production. This type of breast milk provides fat to the newborn in addition to immunity improving and non-nutritional components.
Feeding breast milk exclusively to newborns is recommended for the first 6 months. After this, a combination of breast milk and other supplements till they are 1 to 2 years old is advised.
With some understanding of breast milk, read on to know all you need to know about colostrum, or first breast milk.
How Does Colostrum Benefit Your Newborn?
If anything, we know that feeding newborns this yellow colored breast milk is safe. Here are a few reasons why.
- Newborns have very immature digestive systems, making digestion a challenge. Colostrum is extremely easy to digest thanks to its high concentration, low volume form, making it an ideal food for newborns.
- The first breast milk has a laxative effect, increasing bowel movements and hence allowing the baby to pass his/her first stools. It is also this property that allows the elimination of excess bilirubin, a yellow pigment in the fluid bile produced by the liver, preventing the occurrence of jaundice.
- Colostrum contains zinc, calcium, and vitamins in plenty. Your baby needs these nutrients for overall growth and development. Not just that, colostrum is also considered a superfood for newborns because it is abundant in protein, making it a great source of nourishment.
- Colostrum is high in the white blood cells that protect your baby against infections till he/she starts producing his/her own antibodies. These white blood cells, known as leukocytes, ward off even serious respiratory infections like pneumonia, flu, and bronchitis.
- The first breast milk has also been found to be abundant in cholesterol, which aids the development of the baby’s nervous system.2
How Much Colostrum Does Your Baby Need?
The first time you feed your newborn colostrum, the quantity produced may be as low as 2 ml. However, this much is more than sufficient at the first go. As days pass, you may be able to produce as much as 60 ml, which your baby could consume in one feed. That said, no matter how much colostrum you produce, just ensure that you breastfeed your baby as often as possible in the first few days for milk supply to be adequate later on. Also, remember that colostrum is best not pumped because it is produced in small quantities. Pumping it may slow down or even stall milk transfer.
How Long Is Colostrum Produced? What Happens Next?
Once you start breastfeeding, colostrum is produced only for the first few days – about 1–7 days after birth. After this, transitional milk production begins and occurs from day 8–20 after birth. Then, mature milk production starts. As time passes, the suckling action of your baby will improve lactation. The onset of lactation, however, varies from woman to woman. Some women start in 2–3 days, while some take much longer. You’ll know you’ve started lactating if your breasts feel swollen and tender. You may also leak milk between feeds because of excess milk production and feel extremely emotional because of hormonal fluctuations.
Now that you know everything there is to know about colostrum, you’ll know not to be alarmed if you see yellow milk the first time you breastfeed. Feed your baby regularly and well for healthy growth and development.
|↑1||Enger, S. M., R. K. Ross, B. Henderson, and L. Bernstein. “Breastfeeding history, pregnancy experience and risk of breast cancer.” British Journal of Cancer 76, no. 1 (1997): 118.|
|↑2||Boersma, E. Rudy, Pieter J. Offringa, F. A. Muskiet, William M. Chase, and Ira J. Simmons. “Vitamin E, lipid fractions, and fatty acid composition of colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk: an international comparative study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 53, no. 5 (1991): 1197-1204.|