Wondering how to express colostrum?
Then let us help with our step by step guide on how to express colostrum before birth and how to hand express colostrum!
Colostrum is often referred to as liquid gold by new moms, because it’s so packed full of good things.
Plus, it’s yellow! The first milk a new mom produces, colostrum helps build up your baby’s health in those early days when they’ve just entered the world.
So, it’s no wonder moms often want to have as much colostrum to hand as possible.
Hand expressing colostrum before birth can help moms build up a supply of the incredible milk.
For women with difficult pregnancies, antenatal colostrum harvesting is often recommended for boosting the health of the newborns.
But many moms without pregnancy complications are considering the benefits of expressing colostrum as well.
In this guide, we’ll cover what colostrum is, how to express it, and whether that’s the right choice for you.
What Is Colostrum And Is It Important?
Colostrum is the first milk that a mom produces, and it’s important because it’s highly concentrated and full of good things for the baby.
Colostrum is slightly different to what we consider breast milk. It’s thicker, yellower, and stickier, because it’s packed with protein and vitamins.
Some refer to colostrum as being a baby’s first vaccine, because it helps to build your little one’s immune system, and fight infection.
A couple of days after giving birth, colostrum starts to transition to mature milk.
The milk becomes paler and thinner, and will stay like this for the next few weeks as your body establishes a breastfeeding supply and routine.
How To Express Colostrum
Expressing, or harvesting, colostrum is something that many women do during the last few weeks of pregnancy, and the first few days after giving birth.
The best way to express colostrum is by hand. Due to the thicker and stickier consistency, it can get stuck in parts of a breast pump.
how to hand express colostrum
- Begin by washing and sterilizing a cup or bottle to collect the colostrum, and a syringe. Make sure to wash your hands before starting as well.
- Find a place to sit where you can feel comfortable and relaxed. Having a warm bath or shower beforehand can both improve flow, and help you to relax.
- To encourage the expression, start by gently massaging your breast. Using your hand, stroke from the back of the breast towards the nipple. A heat pack can also be beneficial.
- Use a wide C-shaped hold to cup the breast. To do this, place your thumb above the top of the nipple, where you can feel a change in texture. Place the rest of your fingers below the nipple.
- With the thumb and index finger, gently squeeze and release the breast. Roll the fingers forward slightly without sliding across the skin, and press down before letting go. It shouldn’t hurt to do this.
- As you build up a rhythm, the milk should start to flow. Colostrum is concentrated, so expect it to come as thick drops.
- Don’t panic if no milk is released! Try moving your fingers either closer to the nipple, or further away, to see if that might work better. It won’t always come straight away, and you might need a few days of massaging before you start expressing colostrum. Keep up the massage for a few minutes, and then try again the next day.
- If droplets do start to flow, then you can collect them. Some droplets you’ll be able to collect in a cup or bottle. Then, draw them into a syringe. Others can be drawn into the syringe directly from the nipple. You may need some help with this!
- To ensure you have expressed completely, when the flow starts to slow, move your fingers around the breast. Adjust the position in intervals, like the numbers on a clock face, and repeat the squeeze and release motion.
- Move onto the other breast, and proceed in the same way.
- Store your syringes of colostrum in the freezer. We recommend placing them in a freezer safe Ziploc bag, so you can label them with the date, and keep track of your harvesting.
Expressing Colostrum During Pregnancy
Expressing colostrum during pregnancy means you have a supply on hand for when the baby comes, should they need it.
Midwives and obstetricians will be able to advise you on whether this is the right choice. Expressing before week 37/38 of your pregnancy is not recommended.
While all moms might express colostrum before birth, in certain situations it’s considered to be of a greater benefit.
Harvesting colostrum means you have some on hand during those first few days after giving birth, when things can be a little hectic.
Having a supply of colostrum immediately after birth can be beneficial in many situations, including:
- Women with gestational diabetes, or pre-existing diabetes. The colostrum can help babies to regulate their own blood sugar.
- Women who have been controlling high blood pressure with beta blockers.
- Infants expected to have a low-birth-weight.
- Infants who have been diagnosed with a cleft lip or palate in the antenatal stage.
- Families with a history of lactose intolerance or IBS.
- Women diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
- Infants who have been diagnosed with congenital conditions.
- Women who might have concerns about their ability to produce milk, such as those who have breast hypoplasia, and those who have had breast surgery.
- Women having an elected cesarean, who may expect some recovery time without the baby.
But harvesting colostrum can be beneficial for a number of reasons.
Those first few days after birth can be complicated, and having a supply of super-beneficial breast milk to hand can ensure a little extra support for your baby.
If you’re thinking of expressing colostrum in the antenatal period, speak to your midwife or obstetrician.
They can advise on whether it’s right for you, and the best way to go about it.
Final Thoughts on how to harvest colostrum
Colostrum is considered liquid gold for new moms, which is why many women want to collect as much of it as they can.
Packed with proteins and vitamins, it can give new babies the best start possible.
Speak to your midwife or obstetrician about whether to start expressing colostrum, and remember to go gently and stay relaxed.
We hope this guide to how to hand express colostrum and how to express colostrum before birth has been helpful!