What you need to know about the benefits of your baby’s first food
Although you may hear some mothers complain that their breastmilk has taken a long time to come in, there is an amazing “first milk” that typically supplies everything your baby will need during the first few days of his or her life. Colostrum is this incredible milk and is often referred to as “liquid gold” because of its tremendous health benefits to babies. Here are some facts every new mother needs to know about colostrum.
Colostrum contains antibodies to protect your baby from illnesses
Like breastmilk, colostrum provides numerous antibodies to the baby through its powerful white blood cells. These cells can attack harmful bacteria that may cause your baby to get sick during his first few days of life. For this reason, both colostrum and breastmilk are actually closer to human blood than they are to infant formula in their amazing ability to fight off disease and illness.
Colostrum acts as a “laxative” to stimulate the baby’s bowels
As the mother feeds her baby colostrum in the first few days, it helps the baby to pass the first stool. This stool is referred to as meconium and contains bilirubin. Bilirubin is a substance that causes newborn jaundice if it is not removed through stool and urine. If you breastfeed your baby frequently in the first few days after birth, you can indeed help to reduce her risk of deveoping jaundice.
Colostrum contains healthy nutrition for newborns
Colostrum is quite high in protein content as well as lower in fat and sugar. This makes colostrum an ideal first food for the baby not only in terms of nutrition, but for the baby to be able digest more easily than other nutritional supplements such as infant formula.
Colostrum lines the baby’s digestive tract with good bacteria
As the baby swallows colostrum, it coats the entire digestive tract to prevent harmful bacteria from clinging to the walls of the intestines. In this way, colostrum acts as a seal to protect the baby from potential illness.
The small quantity of colostrum aids in digestion
While mothers often worry that the quantity of colostrum is too small for their baby, this smaller amount is actually easier for the baby’s gastrointestinal system. Remember that your baby has not needed to digest his own food, so the smaller quantity in each feeding (often not much more than 1/4 oz) is actually the ideal amount for your baby in these early days of adjusting to life outside the uterus and digesting his own food for the first time.
For more information about breastfeeding, read the entire series!