Colostrum is the secretion of protective antibodies that boosts the newborn’s immune system. This article provides information about the functions of colostrum during pregnancy.
Colostrum is the sticky white or yellow fluid that is secreted by the breasts, during the second half of the pregnancy and for a few days after birth. It is rich in antibodies, and protects the newborn from various infections. It also creates a laxative effect by helping the newborn to egest the black stool (meconium), thereby reducing the chances of jaundice. The formation of colostrum starts in the early pregnancy, i.e., by 12 – 14 week. It has many qualities that are useful for the newborn. It prepares the digestive system of the child to absorb and digest the milk. It is different from mature milk in many ways. It has less quantity of sugar and fat, and more quantity of salt and protein. It may appear yellow in color, and is thicker in density. These are the reasons why early breastfeeding is recommended.
Functions of Colostrum
Colostrum is considered as a vaccine for the baby, as it contains immunoglobulin A (IgA). However, it is different from immunoglobulin G (IgG), which the fetus receives through the placenta during pregnancy. IgG takes care of the circulatory system of the baby, whereas IgA is responsible for increasing the immunity of the body. IgA protects the child from microorganisms and various antigens. It also stamps down the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Colostrum also plays a vital role in increasing the gut peristalsis, which helps the newborn to pass meconium easily.
This secretion, early during the pregnancy causes an obvious change in the breast. The breasts start producing it during the second trimester. The color of this secretion is yellowish in the beginning, and as the due date approaches, it becomes colorless. It may be secreted during breast massage or sexual stimulation. Women who don’t experience colostrum discharge during pregnancy need not worry, as they can still produce milk for the newborn.
The amount of secretion during pregnancy has no relation to the production of milk after childbirth. It may or may not leak during pregnancy. The amount of secretion may vary from a teaspoon to an ounce. Around 37 ml of colostrum is produced in the first 24 hours after delivery, and a newborn takes in about 7 ml to 14 ml of it in each feeding.
When the milk starts coming after the birth of the new baby, it is known as transitional milk. It is a mixture of mature milk and the colostrum, that is produced for around 4 to 10 days after birth. With the increase in the production of milk in breast, the sugar and fat content also increases, and the protein content decreases. After two weeks, pure mature milk is produced in which the immune factors and the antibodies are in less quantity as compared to the colostrum.
It is important to consult the doctor if you feel a lump or a nipple discharge (that is not colostrum) during pregnancy.