Is Antenatal Expression of Colostrum Possible and Is It Safe?
Preparing for the birth of your baby is a monumental task. There is so much to learn about your pregnancy, the birth of your baby, and what happens after the delivery.
BeauGen is here to help moms prepare for their pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum journey.
In this post, we’re going to delve into the topic of hand expressing colostrum antenatally, or before your baby is born.
What Is Antenatal Colostrum Expression?
Antenatal colostrum expression simply means using your hands to collect colostrum while you are in the late stages of your pregnancy. This topic is fairly new to many moms. Your body begins making colostrum during the early stages of your pregnancy. Colostrum is the earliest breast milk produced. Many pregnant mothers note their breasts growing in size or firmness, which signifies the creation of this first stage of breast milk.
General guidelines suggest waiting until at least week 37 of your pregnancy to help avoid the risk of inducing labor early. At this stage you can begin to hand express colostrum and draw this liquid gold up into a food safe syringe for storage twice a day, no more.
Mama to Mama Advice: Please speak with your healthcare provider before attempting to express antenatal colostrum, especially if you are at risk for early delivery as this may increase the risk of preterm labor. It’s always a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider, midwife, or a lactation professional before starting with hand expression during pregnancy.
What is the benefit of Antenatal Colostrum?
There are a few different benefits to hand expressing colostrum during the last few weeks of your pregnancy. The main reason is to build a supply of colostrum. There are a few different reasons why expectant mothers might want to start stocking up on this first stage of breast milk.
In Case of Emergency
While many deliveries go according to plan, there is a chance your delivery might not follow your birth plan. Just in case you and your baby are separated for medical treatment, having a supply of colostrum on hand can ensure that your baby gets the very best nutrition right after delivery, and it can help to establish breastfeeding when you can be reunited with your baby.
Just In Case Baby Comes Early
If your baby arrives early, there is a chance that there might be a gap between the end of your supply of colostrum, and your transitional breast milk coming in. Hand expressing and collecting colostrum can enable you to feed your baby while pumping and nursing to help encourage your milk to come in.
If a baby is born with diabetes, colostrum will pay a vital role in helping to regulate their blood sugar. Having it on hand can make sure that you have it right when your baby needs it.
Give Mama a Break:
After your labor, you are likely to be tired. Having milk on hand for your baby means that you can get some rest while your husband or care team help feed your baby. At birth, a baby’s stomach is the size of marble, meaning a newborn can only consume approximately one tablespoon at a time milk at a time. A newborn baby will feed between eight and 12 times in a 24 hour period.
Mamas of Multiples:
If you are having twins or triplets, there are a few reasons you might want to hand express colostrum in the last few weeks of your pregnancy: the first is to have enough colostrum for each of your babies. The next reason is to be able to have help feeding the babies, and recovering from your delivery.
Involving Your Partner
Feeding your baby is a great way to bond with your baby. By enabling your partner to feed the baby in the early hours and days of their life, you can help these two to develop a strong bond.
If you are totally uncomfortable in the late stage of your pregnancy and your breasts feel engorged, hand expressing colostrum might help.
How to Hand Express and Collect Colostrum?
All of this is great if you are familiar with hand expression. But if this is your first baby and you’re new to this area, don’t panic. Hand expression is recommended over pumping because of the thick, sticky consistency of colostrum. It is very difficult to pump and collect this liquid gold.
What you’ll Need:
Image Credit: Silverette
You’ll need your hands, of course, but you’ll also need some other supplies. First, you’ll need something clean in which to collect the colostrum. We love the Silverette nipple cups. A small bowl or spoon also works. And you’ll also need food safe syringes to draw up and store the milk.
You can search for colostrum syringes or oral syringes online. Haaka, known for their silicone collection cups, also offers these silicone colostrum collectors, and Lactation Collection offers easy to use oral syringes. If you’re a Medala Mama, they offer colostrum collection cups that are freezer safe.
A Guide to Hand Expression:
First things first, make sure your hands are clean and that you have a clean container to use for the collecting colostrum. Next, try to relax. If you are comfortable and relaxed, you will be better able to express your colostrum.
Cup your breast with your hand in a c-shape. Press your fingers and thumb into your breast, compressing it towards your chest (try not to lift your breast upwards). Next, compress your breast with your fingers and your thumb, moving them towards your areola and nipple but not touching them. Release the pressure while keeping your hand cupped to your breast. Try repeating this process.
When colostrum is expressed, use your free hand and sterile container to collect it. This might take a bit of trial and error to find a method that works for your body. Try to be patient with the process and your body.
Pro Tip: Ask your partner to help out and collect the colostrum while you work on expressing milk.
How to Transport Colostrum for Your Delivery:
As you collect your colostrum and draw it up into oral syringes, store these in a bag that is easy to place in a cooler. If you have opted for a home birth, you’re good to go. If you have opted for a birthing center or hospital, you’ll need to transport your colostrum with you.
When you go into labor, grab your stash of liquid gold and pack it in a cold storage container like a small cooler or insulated bag. When you arrive at either the birthing center or the hospital, inform your care team that you have brought colostrum so that they can make arrangements to help preserve your supply.
Remember: While expressing colostrum before birth may help facilitate successful breastfeeding after delivery, please remember to check with your healthcare provider before beginning trying antenatal expression.
Have you expressed colostrum in preparation for your little one’s arrival? Let us know in the comments below.