Often referred to as "liquid gold," colostrum is the yellowish milk that's available for your baby right after birth, before your mature milk comes in a few days later. Colostrum has many amazing benefits for babies—for example, it strengthens their immune system, protects against jaundice, and helps them have their first poop.
If you're a new parent, you likely have many questions about colostrum, including how much colostrum your baby needs, what to if your baby isn't able to latch when you're producing colostrum, and how to ensure if your baby is getting enough.
We connected with three experts in the field—a pediatrician specializing in breastfeeding, a lactation consultant, and a neonatologist—to help answer parents' most common questions about colostrum.
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first form of breast milk for your baby. It's full of nutrients and antioxidants, but it only lasts two to four days before mature milk starts coming in.
Colostrum contains nutrients that are just right for a newborn's system, along with disease-fighting substances. "Colostrum is a baby's first super food," says Kara Thornton, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Via Lactea. "It's a nutritional powerhouse that delivers powerful antibodies to build a strong immune system."
Indeed, colostrum carries immune system components like immunoglobulins, lactoferrin (a protein with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties), and growth factors, says Jenelle Ferry, M.D., neonatologist and director of feeding, nutrition, and infant development at Pediatrix Medical Group in Tampa, Florida.
Nutritionally, colostrum is higher in protein and lower in fat than mature milk. "The differences in composition are why a baby needs so much less volume of colostrum than they will for mature milk," explains Dr. Ferry.
Kara Thornton, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Via Lactea
"Colostrum is a baby's first super food. It's a nutritional powerhouse that delivers powerful antibodies to build a strong immune system."
— Kara Thornton, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Via Lactea
We usually think of breast milk as a white substance, but colostrum looks a little different. For starters, it's usually yellowish in color. "Colostrum gets the nickname 'liquid gold' partly because of its golden/bright or dark yellow color," describes Dr. Ferry. Colostrum might be other colors as well (such as clear, white, or orange), and this is also normal.
As for consistency, colostrum tends to be on the more viscous side. "Colostrum has the thick, sticky consistency of honey," says Thornton.