With so much advice flying around it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Colostrum harvesting is one of the topics I would advise taking notice of.
However, I have to admit that I believe colostrum harvesting provides a really great start to breastfeeding and can help to relieve anxiety in the first few days following delivery.
What exactly is colostrum harvesting?
Colostrum harvesting is the process of stimulating the mammary glands within the breast to produce the first milk secretion of colostrum. This sticky fluid, which the body produces from the second trimester until a few days following the arrival of your baby, is packed full of goodness. While the colostrum volume may seem small, it is really calorie-rich.
Having colostrum already collected can be especially helpful if your baby needs to spend some time in special care.
Hand-expressing will also help you to understand your breast anatomy and, in turn, aid you in guiding your baby onto the breast. Being able to express a little milk onto the breast can encourage your baby to feed.
When and how to harvest colostrum
Despite lacking in volume, this liquid gold really packs a punch with its calorie rich goodness. Full of antibodies and immunoglobulins, this first milk will give your baby everything they need to see them through until your milk “comes in” – usually around day 3.
You can start colostrum harvesting from 36-37 weeks. It is generally not advised to start harvesting breast milk before weeks 36 or 37 of pregnancy. It’s always best to speak to your midwife to see when they would advise is best for you personally to start harvesting colostrum.
You can express up to 3 times a day.
When you are ready to harvest colostrum, you should:
- Get relaxed – you will struggle if you are not comfy
- Massage your breasts to feel where the milk ducts are
- Gently but firmly squeeze the breast repeatedly
- Be patient and avoid pulling at the breast tissues – it may take a few attempts to stimulate production
- Use a 1ml syringe to collect any drops by drawing back the plunger over the liquid
- Once the drops have slowed, rotate your hand around the breast to make sure you have expressed milk from all the way around your breast – visualise a clock with your fingers being at 12-6 then move to 1-7, 2-8, etc.
- Once finished, label the syringes and store in either the fridge or freezer
Each session takes around 20 mins alternating from left to right every 5 minutes. You can try to express up to three times a day, but don’t feel pressured to do so. Go at a pace that is comfortable for you and your body.
Hits and tips for colostrum harvesting
If you are being induced, store any expressed milk in the fridge for 2-3 days beforehand and then collect once your baby has arrived – otherwise you may not be able to use it.
Leave your stock at home and ask your birth partner to collect it once your baby is here. Your baby may latch on straight away and then you can save your harvest for later.
It can be normal not to produce any colostrum before your baby arrives so don’t worry if this is the case for you as it is not a reflection on your future milk supply.
Learn more about colostrum harvesting
in our infant feeding class
Get ready for the arrival of your baby and learn more about colostrum harvesting by attending our Infant Feeding antenatal class.
During this class, we cover everything you need to know about infant feeding from colostrum harvesting to breastfeeding and formula feeding. After joining this antenatal class, you will confidently know which feeding option is best for you and you’ll be ready to master the practical-side of feeding with all of our tips, tricks and advice!