When preparing for the birth of your new baby, you likely completed a checklist to ensure you had everything ready to go before your bundle of joy arrived. Set up crib. Check. Purchase diapers. Check. Attend childbirth education classes. Check. Gather colostrum. Wait, what?
Women who are 37 weeks or more pregnant now have the option to gather and store their colostrum to have it on hand when their baby is born. Colostrum, considered to be the early milk produced by women in their second trimester, is an antibody-rich immune booster that is vital to the health of infants. Colostrum promotes the development of normal gut flora, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and aids in the optimal absorption of nutrients in the small intestines.
“The first week is critical for a diet of only breast milk to reduce the risk of future illnesses and to ensure the mother’s healthy milk supply for months to come,” says Anne Beckman, an international board-certified lactation consultant at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, Minnesota. “Moms who are able to start practicing may have a small supply of their own breast milk available immediately upon delivering should the baby need it.”
HOW TO COLLECT COLOSTRUM
Years earlier, Lauren had been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disorder that affects the reproductive system, potentially causing fertility issues. The diagnosis coupled with her husband’s paralysis, made getting pregnant difficult. But, with the help of fertility treatments, Buck soon learned she was pregnant.
Knowing that polycystic ovarian syndrome can decrease a mother’s milk supply or make it difficult for her to produce milk after giving birth, Lauren’s provider gave her educational materials on the colostrum collection process. “After hearing about the process and learning about the benefits, I never considered not collecting my colostrum,” says Lauren. “I would rather have too much milk than not enough at such a critical point in my baby’s life.”
Just before entering week 37, Lauren met with Jenna Reinhart, an international board-certified lactation consultant in Red Wing. During this appointment, Jenna showed Reinhart exactly how the process worked using hand expressing to collect and store the milk. “After that appointment, I collected colostrum every day until I delivered,” says Lauren. “Some days I would get more than others and noticed an increase in my supply as I got closer to my due date.”
Along with the other personal belongings she packed for her hospital stay, Lauren packed her frozen colostrum. The colostrum would be stored in the labor room’s freezer and be available immediately after her baby was born, if needed.
BREASTFEEDING MADE EASIER
Lauren and her husband welcomed their son, Silas, into the world at a healthy 6 pounds, 13 ounces. “Silas learned to latch and suck immediately after birth, which I partially credit to my comfort level from knowing what to expect from hand expressing,” says Lauren. Her collected colostrum did not go to waste. “I ended up using my stored colostrum throughout his first week of life,” she says. “It was wonderful being able to give my husband a chance to feed him, which also gave me a few extra minutes to rest.”
“I will forever be grateful to Anne and Jenna for their support and encouragement throughout this journey,” says Lauren. “It was such wonderful experience that I can’t help but share it with all of my friends and family.”