Have you heard the term “when your milk comes in”? I feel like this statement is the first step to undermining a woman’s confidence about breastfeeding. Think about it. If you tell me that my milk doesn’t come in until day 3 or 4, I can’t help but assume that I have nothing to give before that. We do have milk before that! The milk you make in the first few days is a little different then what we call your “mature milk”.
The first milk, or colostrum, is very thick, sticky, and low in volume. It’s the perfect food in the first few days for many reasons, but here are the top three. Reason one: A baby’s stomach is the size of a marble. It takes a very small amount of food to fill it. Reason two: Babies like to suck for a long time; therefore the sticky consistency allows them to suck for a long period and get a perfect amount of food. Reason three: Colostrum is LOADED with antibacterial and antiviral components to keep your baby healthy.
Let’s take a deeper look at reason one… Did you know that overfeeding a baby in the first weeks of life is one of the ways to increase their risk of obesity? If their stomach is the size of a marble, they don’t need more than a teaspoon or tablespoon of food. Also, keep in mind; we want people to eat until they feel full, not until their entire stomach is completely full. We don’t want to feel like it’s Thanksgiving dinner at every meal! Your colostrum is the perfect food for your baby’s small tummy.
Reason Two: As they say, there’s a sucker born every minute! This is a true statement. Babies love to suck. Nursing from a breast filled with colostrum is like drinking your coffee with a stirring straw. It will take quite a bit of time, but you’ll sure get your sucking needs met! When babies suck on bottles, they tend to overeat, stretch out their tummies and then begin demanding more and more food at each feeding to fill up that stretched out tummy. This is one of the reasons we ask breastfeeding moms to avoid bottles in the first few weeks.
Reason Three: Colostrum’s antibacterial and antiviral components can’t be beat. There are living cells in the milk that protect your baby from infection and disease. The great thing about the milk is that it not only protects the baby while the baby is getting the milk, but also creates a better immune system for life. This is one of the things that the formula companies have not been able to replicate.
By the way, you start making colostrum, ok, let’s just call it what it is… milk at about the 4th month of pregnancy. Yep – you read that right – the FOURTH MONTH of pregnancy! Your hormone levels keep the milk in the breast, although you may experience a little leaking. After you deliver your baby and the placenta is also delivered, the hormone levels change in your body. That is when the milk is let loose. Your milk is readily available right after the birth. So, when someone asks you, “Is your milk in yet?” give them a confident YES!