What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the earliest breastmilk produced, beginning before birth and is continually produced for the first few days after baby’s birth. Colostrum is the ideal nourishment for a newborn. It is a thick, sticky, concentrated milk and is usually yellow, clear or white, although it could be other colours as well.
Colostrum is easy to digest and includes antibodies, proteins, sugars, and fats to aid development. The composition is tailored to your baby’s specific needs. Your milk changes to mature milk around 2 to 4 days postnatally.
How is colostrum collected?
You can hand-express colostrum from around weeks 36-37 of your pregnancy for no more than 3-5 minutes at one time, 2-3 times a day. Expressing earlier in the pregnancy is possible, but we advise you to consult your midwife or chosen health professional.
Hand expressing becomes easier with practice. It is not practical to use a breast pump to collect colostrum due to the very small amounts involved and the tendency of the colostrum to stick to the breast pump parts.
Collect the droplets of milk with a sterile 1-2ml syringe, using a sterile syringe cap to preventing leakage or contamination. These are available to order in 14-day and 21-day kits from this website. If you find yourself leaking in-between expressing, you could use sterilised one-piece breast shields to collect the liquid and draw it up into your syringe for storage.
How is colostrum stored?
As you collect colostrum throughout the day, you can place your capped syringe in the fridge at a temperature of 2-4°C, and keep adding to it.
At the end of each day, place the capped syringe(s) inside a clean zip-lock bag, label with the date, and place with the plunger uppermost in your freezer at a temperature of -18°C. This ensures that any air remains at the top of the syringe, and will make it easier to fully empty it.
Expressed breast milk can be normally be stored in a freezer cooler than -18°C for up to six months. Dating the containers and using oldest first is especially important with expressed breast milk because the composition changes roughly in line with baby's development.
If you are planning to give birth in hospital, you will need to let your midwife know that you have some frozen colostrum, since it will need to be transported inside a cool bag and kept frozen. Syringes must be clearly labelled to avoid errors. Once the stored colostrum has thawed, it must be used within 24 hours but should always remain chilled. Do not refreeze colostrum. Colostrum syringes/collecters are not feeding devices. Feed by spoon or medicine dropper.