Why is colostrum so important?
Colostrum – the first milk that is produced at the beginning of breastfeeding – is the ideal nutrition for a newborn. It is very concentrated and rich in proteins and nutrients, so even in small quantities it saturates the tiny tummy of the newborn for a long time. Colostrum is low in fat and easy to digest, but at the same time it gives the baby all the essential components for an optimal development start. And that, perhaps most importantly, it plays a decisive role in the formation of the baby’s immune system.
Colostrum looks thicker and yellower than mature milk. Its composition also differs in accordance with the special needs of the newborn.
Colostrum Fights Infections
Almost two-thirds of colostrum cells are white blood cells, which not only protect the baby’s body from infections, but also learn to fight them on their own.1 “White blood cells are very important for the development of immunity. They provide protection and counteract pathogens, ”says Professor Peter Hartmann of the University of Western Australia, a leading expert in lactation.
After giving birth, your body no longer protects the baby, and it must itself confront the new dangers of the surrounding world. White blood cells contained in colostrum produce antibodies that can neutralize bacteria and viruses. These antibodies are especially good at dealing with indigestion and diarrhea, which is very important for very young children whose intestines are not yet sufficiently developed.
Colostrum supports the baby’s immune system and intestines
Colostrum is especially rich in secretory immunoglobulin A –
the most important antibody that protects the child from diseases, but not through the circulatory system, but as a protective coating for the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract. 2 “The molecules that provide the mother’s immune defense enter the breast with her bloodstream, where they secrete and form secretory immunoglobulin And which is then transmitted to the baby along with colostrum, ”explains Professor Hartmann. “Secretory immunoglobulin A accumulates on the mucous membranes of the intestines and respiratory system of the child and protects it from diseases that the mother has already had.”
Colostrum also has many other immunological components and growth factors that stimulate the development of protective mucous membranes in the intestines of the child, and the prebiotics contained in it contribute to the formation of beneficial microflora.3
Colostrum Prevents Jaundice
Colostrum not only protects against indigestion, but also has a laxative effect. This helps newborns often empty their intestines, removing from it everything that was digested there in the prenatal state, in the form of meconium – a dark and viscous feces.
Frequent stool in newborns also reduces the risk of jaundice. A baby is born with a high level of red blood cells, which absorb oxygen from the air. When these cells disintegrate, the liver helps to process them, thus forming a by-product – bilirubin. If the baby’s liver has not yet formed enough to process it, bilirubin begins to be deposited in the body, causing jaundice. 4 Laxative properties of colostrum help the baby remove bilirubin from the body along with stool.
Colostrum contains vitamins and minerals
Carotenoids and vitamin A give a characteristic yellow color to colostrum. Vitamin A is very important for the baby’s vision (deficiency is the main reason for blindness), 6 and also for maintaining healthy skin and the immune system. 7 Usually babies are born with a low supply of vitamin A, 8 and Colostrum helps make up for it.
“The first three days are especially important for establishing breastfeeding”
In addition, colostrum contains a large number of minerals, such as magnesium, which is useful for the heart and bones of the child, as well as copper and zinc, which are involved in the development of the immune system. 9,10 Zinc, in addition, contributes to the development of the brain, and in colostrum it almost four times more than in mature milk, 10 because the brain of a newborn must develop rapidly.
Colostrum helps a child grow and develop
Colostrum contains many other components that help your baby grow and develop. The role of some of them is still unknown to scientists.
“Colostrum retains its composition for approximately 30 hours after the birth of the baby,” says Professor Hartmann. – It contains quite a lot of proteins, because all the antibodies in its composition are essentially proteins. It contains relatively little lactose [milk sugar], and the composition of fats is different from mature milk. ”
In addition, colostrum is close in composition to the amniotic fluid that your baby swallowed and secreted while in the womb, so it is ideal for adaptation to the outside world.11
Transition from Colostrum to Mature Milk
Breast milk usually begins to arrive two to four days after birth. The breast becomes harder and fuller, and instead of colostrum, transitional milk is allocated from it, whiter in color and more cream in consistency.