Pregnancy is a time of anticipation and excitement, but it can also be filled with questions and uncertainties. One of the most common concerns for expectant mothers is how to provide the best possible nutrition for their newborn baby. While breastfeeding is recommended for all infants, some mothers may face difficulties in the early days after birth. Antenatal colostrum collection is one strategy that can help ensure that babies receive the best possible start in life.
Antenatal milk collection is a growing trend among new parents. It involves collecting and freezing breastmilk from the mother before their baby’s birth. This can provide both short-term and long-term benefits for the family.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what antenatal milk collection is and why it might be beneficial to you as a parent.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is a nutrient-rich, yellowish fluid that is produced by the mother's breasts in the first few days after birth. It is often called "liquid gold" because of its high concentration of antibodies, protein, and other essential nutrients. Colostrum is the perfect first food for babies, as it provides them with everything they need to build a strong immune system, fight off infections, and grow healthy and strong.
Why Collect Colostrum Antenatally (before baby is born)?
Some mothers may face challenges in the first few days after birth that make it difficult to breastfeed their baby. These challenges can include difficulties with latching, engorgement, or medical issues that require separation from the baby. Antenatal colostrum collection can help ensure that babies receive the benefits of colostrum even if they are unable to breastfeed immediately after birth.
Antenatal colostrum collection involves expressing and collecting colostrum from the mother's breasts during pregnancy, usually towards the end of the third trimester. This colostrum can then be stored and used to feed the baby in the early days after birth, either through a bottle, small cup, spoon, or a feeding syringe.
Antenatal colostrum collection has been shown to increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding and to reduce the risk of complications in the early days after birth.
How to Collect Colostrum Antenatally?
Antenatal colostrum collection is a simple process that can be done at home or in a hospital or birthing center. Here are the steps to follow:
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
Gently massage your breast to stimulate milk production.
Place your thumb and forefinger around your areola (approx 1-2 in behind your nipple). Press towards your chest, and gently compress your fingers, and release. Watch Hand Expression video here.
Collect the colostrum in a clean container, such as an oral syringe.
Label the container with the date and time of collection.
Store the colostrum in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. (The same storage guidelines that are used for postpartum milk storage apply. Freezing or not freezing the colostrum depends on the timing of collection). Storage guidelines found here.
How Long Should I Express and How Much Should I Expect?
You will likely only need to hand express milk one - two times a day, for a maximum of 10 minutes per session (just until you can collect a few drops), around 37 weeks of pregnancy.
It is important to keep expectations realistic as large volumes of colostrum may not be obtained initially. The the average colostrum yield per session ranges from 2-5 ml (approx .5-1 tsp). Nevertheless, some may experience an increase in volume once lactation is stimulated from nursing.
It is important to note that antenatal colostrum collection should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Chat with your healthcare provider as they will be well versed on your individual health history.
Antenatal colostrum collection is a safe and effective way to ensure that babies receive the best possible start in life. It can help overcome some of the challenges that new mothers may face in the early days after birth, and it has been shown to improve breastfeeding outcomes and reduce the risk of complications. This strategy is also NOT NECESSARY. This is just one strategy that can be used help ensure that your baby receives the best possible start in your nursing journey. Hand expressing colostrum is equally beneficial after your baby is born.
If you are pregnant and interested in antenatal colostrum collection, talk to your healthcare provider to see if it is right for you. With the right support and guidance, you can provide your baby with the best possible nutrition from the very beginning.
Still Have Questions?
I'd love to guide you through this process and answer any questions that you may have. From the comfort of your own home, we can create a plan just for you! Click the link below and schedule a virtual prenatal consultation.
1. Forster DA, Moorhead AM, Jacobs SE, et al. Advising women with diabetes in pregnancy to express breastmilk in late pregnancy (Diabetes and Antenatal Milk Expressing [DAME]): A multicentre, unblinded, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2017 Jun 3;389(10085):2204-2213.
About the author: Kellie Green is a certified and licensed Speech Pathologist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who specializes in infant feeding. She operates a private practice in Columbus, OH, Green Living & Wellness.