Nature provides colostrum as a newborn’s very first food. It’s a type of highly concentrated liquid food containing immune factors and other important nutrients. It completely nourishes the baby throughout the first few days of life. Colostrum looks different from the regular breast milk that will later appear. It’s thicker and typically much more of a yellowish color than standard breast milk.
As your pediatrician may explain to you, the concentrated form of this colostrum is very important to a newborn because at this point the infant’s stomach may be not much larger than a marble. Obviously, such a small space couldn’t hold much, so literally every drop of liquid nutrient counts.
Why Some Women Cannot Breastfeed
First of all, not all women are able to breastfeed. There could be a number of reasons for this:
Previous breast disease or surgery or current radiation treatment
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Insufficient breast glandular tissue
In addition, some mothers may have viral infections that could pass to the baby through breast milk. The same is true of certain medications. Breastfeeding isn’t possible for all women all the time. If this applies to you, it’s perfectly acceptable. Remember: it’s not your fault.
Your pediatrician will be able to guide you as you select a nutritious formula for your infant instead.
Don’t let others make you feel bad because you cannot breastfeed or choose not to. It’s a personal decision, and it’s really no one’s business, anyway.
Some women cannot breastfeed due to lifestyle or career factors. If you’re in this situation, consider pumping your milk to be bottle-fed to the baby later. You should also seriously consider breastfeeding at least through the colostrum period. This is because of the amazing benefits of colostrum for the child.
The Benefits of Colostrum
You will continue to produce pure colostrum for up to about five days after childbirth. At this point, a transitional milk appears. This is a mixture of a bit of colostrum and the more mature milk your breasts will eventually produce. At about this same time, your baby’s stomach will begin to enlarge, allowing him or her to take in more milk.
Colostrum is a truly perfect food for the newborn. Here are some reasons why:
Colostrum contains substances that help your newborn fight infection
It acts as a type of laxative to help your baby pass the thick, tarry, pre-birth intestinal contents called meconium
It delivers nutrients to help the baby’s heart, eyes and brain get a good, foundational start
It contains the right blend of proteins, fats and vitamins your newborn needs
It’s easily digestible and won’t contribute to stomach upset and gas
Colostrum helps to prevent neonatal jaundice and low blood sugar
It creates a thick, protective coating for the newborn’s stomach and intestines
Breastfeeding through at least the colostrum period will give your newborn the best possible nutritional start in life.
If you’re unsure about nursing your baby, this is perfectly normal. Don’t let this feeling discourage you. The colostrum period will give you some time to adjust to breastfeeding a bit and help you decide if it’s right for you and your lifestyle or not.