We Americans have learned to think that bigger is better. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger servings of food. (For instance, have you ever been in a fast-food restaurant where the smallest size drink was a medium?) I sometimes hear that a mother has “nothing to feed her baby” right after birth. But when we consider colostrum, small quantities of the superfood are still enough!
Bigger isn’t always better
Maybe you think you won’t have “any” milk or “enough milk” during the colostral phase, but is a big volume really what you want? If your baby had to cope with a greater volume of colostrum, he’d have a tougher time learning to coordinate the suck-swallow-breathe sequence — an entirely new skill for him to master!
We might wish that a greater volume would help him to gain weight. But it doesn’t work that way. Colostrum isn’t a body-builder; it’s more like a painter! It paints and seals the gut to protect it against harmful, invasive germs.
Technology isn’t always better
Seems like we think that technology and automatic-everything is better than the old-fashioned way. (Remember the days when you used a rotary dial for the phone? How about a hand-operated can opener?)
If you are pumping your colostrum, it’s entirely possible that half or more of your “dose” ends up on the flange of the pump. And when using a pump, the colostrum is usually collected into a bottle, so you are likely to lose a milliliter or so there, too. Bottles with artificial nipples are clearly the default in our culture, but maybe you’ve already discovered how inefficient this method is during the colostral phase!
Therefore, a better idea, as Mary Foley RN IBCLC explains, is to use a spoon to collect the colostrum, and to feed it directly to the baby. That’s a great way to use every drop! And, of course, the very best way to get colostrum to the baby involves no technology at all — just offering the breast — and that has virtually no waste!
Things don’t always look as we might expect them
We have it in our heads that certain things should look or perform in a certain way. (Admit it; if the waiter brings you a bloody-looking steak after you order it medium — well, you’ll send it back, right?)
We expect that the observable characteristics of something are what we’ve seen before, or what someone has told we will see. Colostrum is a bit of a nonconformist. True, most times, colostrum is an orange-yellow or an orange-gold, due to the betacarotene. However, colostrum can be white or clear or blood-tinged or any other color you can imagine. Color isn’t that big of a deal.
Not everything is new, or improved
We often assume that once something is good or acceptable or popular, it will get better and better thereafter. (How many ads do we see for a “new and improved” laundry soap or shampoo?)
Finally, volume doesn’t always increase each time you express your milk. Sometimes you get a little, and next time, you may get nothing! If you express 7 ml during the colostral phase, that’s a lot! Mothers make as little as 10 ml and a much as 100 ml of colostrum in a 24-hour period. The average is about 30 ml in a 24-hour period, about 4 ml every 3 hours. That’s less than a teaspoon.
Above all, colostrum is a literally life-giving, life-sustaining substance. It protects your baby against all sorts of health problems, especially infections. Furthermore, colostrum is a low-volume, high-nutrient substance that literally sticks to the baby’s gut that is a more miraculously powerful first “immunization” than we could ever manufacture in the lab!
How do you, or will you, make sure that your baby gets the colostrum they need? Share your thoughts in the comments below!