The Simple Guide Of Colostrum Harvestingby Louise Broadbridge
Colostrum Harvesting really?
Holy crap! Another new fangled idea designed to apply pressure or a good idea? Here is the opinion of @thehonestmidwife
When the first whispers of Colostrum Harvesting were heard a couple of years ago I am the first to admit I was sceptical, to say the least. My first reaction was, "Jeez this is a natural process and we should leave women alone without giving them a job to do before their baby has even arrived"
Believe me, it doesn't happen very often but I hold my hands up. They were right, I was wrong! God, that tasted like vinegar!
Let's start with:
Let's start with the what:
Colostrum Harvesting What?
Colostrum is the first milk the mammary glands produce just before the arrival of a newborn. Nature is very clever and has provided this thick yellowy liquid, high in fats and proteins to keep the baby going over the lean period until the milk comes in around day 3. It could be a great thing to store just incase the newborn needs it. It is first produced around the 20th week of pregnancy.
This is an additional resource; harvesting colostrum for your baby. Breastfeeding should still be developed if possible as breast milk is another great help in helping your baby grow. Antenatal expression of milk can be part of the overall defense to keep the baby healthy after birth.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospital trust mentions that to harvest colostrum, it's beneficial for some mothers over others:
"The below people are encouraged to use antenatal expression to harvest their colostrum."
Let's get on with the why:
Harvesting Colostrum - Why?
The first few days after the baby is born it can be a little stressful for breastfeeding parents. Reluctant babies, tired Mums, anxious professionals, and sleeping babies in the next cot can be a recipe for a lot of tears. Those first few days baby can be unsettled as it learns the new skill of feeding. Not to mention getting the latch right and worrying that your baby isn’t getting enough. If you have managed to harvest some colostrum many of these anxieties can be alleviated. It would also benefit mothers whose baby's immune systems are low. Or those mothers who are weak after birth and may not be able to breastfeed in the first instance.
Some mothers may find it harder when harvesting colostrum than others. There are two ways in which to harvest colostrum. Some mothers will need to extract it from the breasts while others will find they will leak colostrum. Collecting colostrum can still be achieved both ways. If the mother isn't leaking. it does not mean that she cannot harvest colostrum.
If you are leaking, it's important to not waste it as it's full of goodness. It's can be saved and sucked from the nipple via a syringe that is of course sterile. Make sure that the colostrum is then frozen in a freezer. Each time you are harvesting colostrum it's important to use a new syringe.
When to harvest colostrum?
Nipple stimulation is one of the things that is thought can bring on labour so it is not recommended that you start harvesting before 37 weeks. It's not something a mother would want from the pregnancy, to induce contractions early.
Where to exract colostrum ?
Well anywhere you like but you may get some very funny looks if you choose to do it in the local Nandos!
How does harvesting colostrum work?
It is quite easy but some women do struggle initially. Also, some women don’t manage to get any. Don’t worry if this is you. It isn’t an indication of future milk supply as previously mentioned. If you can, it’s a bonus. If you can’t don’t stress!
Equipment for antenatal expression of colostrum:
First, you need to be relaxed to express colostrum. Then have a clean, sterile 1 or 2 ml syringe. Using this is what is recommended in the UK.
East Kent University NHS Foundation mentions that you will need at least a 1ml for each time collecting colostrum:
"You will need a 1ml syringe for each time you collect colostrum"
Imaging your breast is a clock. Make a C-shape around the breast with your thumb at 12 and your other fingers around the lower breast gently squeeze and release. Keep doing this until liquid is released from the nipple which you collect into the syringe. Once the flow slows move your hand around so that you are squeezing all of the ducts inside the breast - so thumb at 3 o clock and other fingers on the opposite side.
Syringes can be bought in pharmacies and can be defrosted at a later date.
Is colostrum harvesting only for babies with low blood sugar levels?
Most mothers who are expecting can express breast milk pre-birth. Also, the amount of milk expressed won't reflect how successful the breastfeeding journey will be when the baby is born as I've already mentioned.
Babies when born with an increased low blood sugar risk will benefit most from colostrum harvesting in the first instances after being born.
Harvesting colostrum may be needed in the first few hours after delivery if your baby is struggling to feed or has low blood sugar levels.
What woman will benefit from harvesting colostrum?
- Woman with diabetes (pre-existing or gestational)
- Whose who have hormonal disorders
- Sufferers of multiple sclerosis
- Woman expecting more than two babies at birth
- Those who are taking beta blockers
- Woman with IBS issues or dairy intolerance
Expectant mothers who use formula will raise their baby's blood sugar levels but colostrum harvesting is said to be more beneficial for certain mothers as previously stated.
Can’t I just breast feed or express when baby is born?
Yes, of course you can breast feed when baby is born and we actively encourage this. However each baby is different, some babies may have difficulty feeding for many reasons and some may need additional top up feeds on top of breast feeding. Expressing can be difficult and having a supply harvested ready for use can be helpful and reassuring should your baby need it.
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