All About Colostrum
The transition from colostrum to "normal" breast milk is a gradual one. You'll notice a gradual color change to a more milky white appearance as your milk begins to "come in." The volume will also increase. The transition typically occurs within the first few days, sometimes very quickly for some mothers, and sometimes quite late in others. Don't obsess too much about your milk coming in. If you are starting to worry that your milk is taking too long to come in, remember all the benefits of colostrum for your baby, and try to relax.
Here are a few common questions you may have about colostrum:
Q: If I don't produce any colostrum during pregnancy, is this a bad sign? Will I still be able to breastfeed?
A: Some women begin leaking colostrum copiously during pregnancy, while others can't squeeze out a single drop. Either way, colostrum production during pregnancy doesn't appear to be linked to milk supply afterward. If you're not leaking (yet), enjoy it, as you'll surely be leaking once the baby arrives.
Q: My mom says colostrum is old or bad milk and that I should wait until my milk comes in before I breastfeed. Is this true?
A: In some cultures, it was (and perhaps still is) considered taboo to feed a baby colostrum. Typically, the use of wet nurses (or formula, in modern times) was used until the mature milk came in. However, this practice is completely unnecessary and robs the baby of all the benefits of colostrum. It also puts the mother's milk supply at risk, as frequent, early feeding help to establish a robust milk supply.
Q: I had my baby three days ago, and I'm still producing colostrum! What can I do?
A: First of all -- don't panic! Newborn babies have thrived on colostrum since the beginning of human history, and yours will too! Keep offering the breast as often as possible, and consider pumping in addition, especially if your baby has difficulty getting a good latch or has a weak suck. Enlist the help of your child's pediatrician and a lactation consultant as well, who can help reassure you and offer advice when necessary.
Q: My colostrum isn't the standard golden color. Is this okay?
A: Just like mature milk can vary widely in terms of color, colostrum can too. Other possible colors include clear, orange, pink, green, and light brown. If your colostrum isn't the standard yellow color, chalk it up to a unique (but not dangerous) variation of normal.
Q: It just doesn't seem right that a baby should be forced to suffer with tiny amounts of colostrum, thirsty and hungry, when formula is readily available. Isn't it just cruel to withhold formula?
A: Your baby will not starve on colostrum. It is the perfect food for a newborn baby, easily digestible and perfectly designed to meet the nutritional needs of a newborn. And remember, a hungry, thirsty baby is not a bad thing. A hungry, thirsty baby will likely be a vigorous nurser and will want to be fed frequently, which will help set the groundwork for a great milk supply. A baby overstuffed with formula is not likely to be one that will want to put forth the effort to breastfeed. Withholding formula, in normal situations, isn't cruel -- it's the best thing for baby.
Q: Spit-up colostrum has stained all my baby's clothes? What can be done?
A: Colostrum can stain baby clothes and yours as well. By the time you finally get around to doing your first loads of postpartum laundry, colostrum stains can set in and be difficult to remove. Try whatever pretreater you have on hand, and wash the clothes in the warmest water safe for them. However, unless a special garment is stained (perhaps one you wanted to save as a keepsake), you might consider just throwing out any hopelessly stained items. You likely have more newborn-sized clothes than your baby will ever be able to wear.
Here's a great piece of advice from seasoned moms -- avoid white baby clothes during the first few days. White clothes and colostrum are not a great mix.
Q: I just had my baby, but I don't have any colostrum! What can be done?
A: You probably have plenty of colostrum for your new little baby. Remember that babies can be much more efficient than any pump (or hand squeezing), and even if you can't squeeze out any colostrum, your baby is probably able to extract it. Also consider the possibility if you're breastfeeding frequently, your baby is already getting all the colostrum your breasts are producing, leaving none for you to squeeze out or pump. However, if you don't seem to have any colostrum and your baby doesn't have a good latch or isn't sucking well, be sure to consult a lactation consultant.