Did you know you can actually start breastfeeding even before your baby is born?
Colostrum Harvesting involves hand expressing milk prenatally from roughly 36 weeks right through till the first few days after your baby is born.
It’s referred to a ‘Liquid Gold’ and is a wonderful way to establish your breastfeeding journey straight after birth. Especially if you might be faced with obstacles to initiating direct feeding with your baby.
For many women one of the first undeniable symptoms that they’re pregnant is sore and tender breasts. From almost the moment you become pregnant your breasts are preparing to feed and nurture your baby. Colostrum is actually starting to be produced from as early as 16 – 22 weeks into your pregnancy, starting to make sense now why they seem to look so massive right?
It’s completely normal for some women to notice their breasts leaking particularly during late pregnancy and some wont at all, this and how much colostrum you are able to harvest has no bearing on the milk you will produce once your baby is born and your ability to feed them.
Colostrum is the first milk your body produces and is much thicker in texture than the milk you produce a few days after birth and is a yellowish colour instead on the white of regular milk. Colostrum is higher in both fat and protein than regular milk and is the first immune system defence a baby receives after birth.
A new-born baby’s stomachs is the size of a cherry on the day its born, so you really don’t need to harvest much colostrum to be able to feed your baby for those first few vital hours, especially if you are unable to establish breastfeeding or if you are not planning to breastfeed long-term.
There are some wonderful videos online showing you how to begin harvesting, which is a great technique to master. Having the ability to hand express in extremely handy (excuse the pun) when your milk comes in between day 3-5 after birth, which is when your body stops producing colostrum and starts producing what we think of as more traditional breastmilk.
It’s important to ensure you are completely relaxed and undisturbed when harvesting as the process can take some time, especially whilst you are getting used to it. Often a warm shower and breast massage can help.
You can purchase specific syringes online easily, which are sterile and small enough to collect the drops of milk you squeeze from your nipple. Once collected you can freeze the colostrum until you go into labour. Make sure you follow precautions to ensure it remains sterile.
When you go into labour you can take the colostrum with you to the hospital for them to store for you. Be sure to label it with your details prior to this.
Just remember that colostrum harvesting is not advised prior to 36 weeks as it can actually stimulate your body to go into labour in some cases. But if you are looking to naturally get labour started it’s an amazing way to try and get the oxytocin following and besides being able to feed your new-born baby it’s a great way to take some much-needed load of those tired feet and take a break.
By Ellie Dearden