Why do it?
With so much advice flying around it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. As a midwife I have seen lots of changes in procedures, policies and recommendations - many of which can prompt eye rolling from those who have seen these changes come and go.
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.
So, what 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. Despite lacking in volume this liquid gold really packs a punch with its calorie rich goodness.
Having colostrum already collected can be helpful if your baby needs to spend some time in special care. Hand expressing will 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 & HOW
You can start from 37 weeks
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 she needs to see her through until your milk "comes in" - usually around day 3. You can start colostrum harvesting from 36-37 weeks.
You can express up to 3 times a day. 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. It may take a few attempts to stimulate production. Avoid pulling at the breast tissues.
Use a 1ml syringe to collect any drops by drawing back the plunger over the liquid. Once the drops have stopped rotate your hand around the breast - visualise a clock with your fingers being at 12 -6 then move to 1-7, 2-8 etc.
Each session takes around 20 mins alternating from left to right every 5 minutes. Once finished label the syringes and store in either the fridge or freezer.
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.