Science of Breastfeeding

Your Colostrum — Priceless!

Your baby only needs mother’s milk the first few days, not formula or water.  Baby is not “starving”!  Try not to think of baby’s first meal as “food” — think of it as “medicine”, small and powerful!  The first milk is colostrum which acts like a special multi-purpose medicine for your baby.  It’s yellowish, sometimes thick and sometimes clear and watery, and packed full of antibodies your baby needs to stay safe.  The colostrum you give may not look like much, but it’s everything your baby needs to get the protection only you can give.  Not only is human milk species specific, it is person specific — your baby needs the immunity only you can give him!  All your immunizations or vaccines that you received, the cold or flu you fought last fall, all your immunity will be given to your baby through your first milk!  That’s why we consider colostrum to be the baby’s first “vaccination”!  Not only immunity, but the colostrum lays down a coating on the inside of baby’s gut or intestine, sort of like Maaco or Midas, which prevents harmful diarrhea-causing bacteria from attaching to the intestinal wall.  In addition, colostrum causes the tiny finger-like projections (villae) in the small intestine to multiply — this increase in villae results in more surface area for the absorption of nutrients.  As your milk is removed, more is produced.  As baby nurses, baby “primes the pump” by stimulating prolactin receptor sites in your breast.  The more receptor sites activated, the better your long term milk supply at 6 weeks and beyond.  Moms who supplement these first few days because they want to “sleep at night” are hurting their supply.  The first few days are crucial for immunity and supply!   Unless you tell the nurses to bring baby back to you for feedings, don’t send your baby to the nursery for the night.  The “Night-time Nursery” is not your friend!

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