Colostrum is a mother’s first milk. Baby’s first feeding is critical to the development of their immune system. And colostrum is packed with nutrients that help protect your baby against infection, like antibodies and growth factors. The benefits of colostrum for baby include supporting the development of a healthy immune system, protecting against infection and reducing your baby’s chance of developing allergies. Colostrum is the first milk that your baby gets from you. It contains more than 200 different components, including antibodies and growth factors that can help protect your baby against illnesses.
Importance of Colostrum
Transition to motherhood (or continuing to grow your family) is no small task, and you’ve likely developed some feelings of apprehension about being able to take care of and provide for your baby. (We understand!)
Don’t worry. Believe it or not, your body is already clued in to the task ahead — after all, it’s had nine months of prep time — and is ready to take on the challenge.
By now, you’ve researched the virtues of mom’s milk, heralded as the perfect diet for your little one. But there’s more.
Upon delivering your little bundle of joy, your breasts first release colostrum (which you’ve actually been producing since mid-pregnancy), a rich, sticky, clear or yellow substance — which has earned it the rep of “liquid gold” — a precursor to your breastmilk. This protein-packed fluid truly is invaluable — as far as your baby’s nutrition is concerned.
Colostrum is often overlooked, but remains a vitally important substance for your infant. While colostrum can be produced by moms during their pregnancies, it’s not until after the delivery of the placenta that hormonal shifts in your body encourage lactation and release of colostrum, which allows baby to begin feeding immediately after birth. As your baby’s first food, it provides the nutrients and nourishment your baby needs. Better yet, this potent vitamin filled fluid is tailored to your baby uniquely.
The Power of Colostrum
Colostrum boasts an impressive resume of health benefits for baby. Here’s a sampling:
So mamas, it’s time to give yourself a break. And a round of applause. Your body knows your baby.
Benefits Of Colostrum For Sick Baby
Colostrum is a nutrient-rich first milk produced by your breasts during pregnancy. It changes to transitional breast milk a few days after your baby is born. However, small amounts of colostrum remain in your breast milk for several weeks.
There are distinct differences between colostrum and breast milk:
- Colostrum is filled with immunoglobins to boost your baby’s immune system and protect it from illness.
- Colostrum has two times as much protein.
- Colostrum has four times as much zinc.
- Colostrum is lower in fat and sugar so it’s easier to digest.
- Colostrum is thicker and more yellow.
What are the stages of breast milk?
There are three different stages of breast milk: colostrum, transitional milk and mature milk.
- Colostrum: Your first milk that lasts between two and four days after birth.
- Transitional milk: Begins approximately four days after birth and lasts about two weeks.
- Mature milk: Milk that lasts from approximately 14 days after birth until you are done producing milk.
When does colostrum turn to milk?
After approximately three or four days, colostrum will turn to transitional milk. This is often referred to as someone’s milk “coming in.” Your breasts will feel firm, tender and full. It means your milk supply has ramped up. By this time your baby’s stomach has expanded and they can drink more milk each feeding. Once your milk supply is established and your body has stabilized, transitional milk changes to mature milk.
What makes colostrum turn to breast milk?
The pregnancy hormones created by the placenta help you create colostrum. The hormone progesterone drops significantly when the placenta separates from your uterus (after your baby is born). This drop in progesterone triggers your breasts to create milk.
What is the purpose of colostrum?
The function of your breasts, or mammary glands, is to produce milk to feed your baby. Colostrum is more than the first milk your baby consumes after birth. It’s highly concentrated with nutrients and antibodies to fight infection and protect your baby. It provides a powerful, unique immunity that only it can provide. Because your baby only needs a little bit of colostrum, it also helps them learn to suck, swallow and breathe during feeding.
What are the benefits of colostrum?
Colostrum builds your baby’s immune system and provides concentrated nutrition. Some of the benefits of colostrum are:
- Helps strengthen your baby’s immune system.
- Helps to establish a healthy gut by coating the intestines. This helps keep harmful bacteria from being absorbed.
- Offers ideal nutrition for a newborn.
- Has a laxative effect that helps your baby clear meconium (your baby’s first poop) and lessens the chance of jaundice.
- Easy to digest.
- Helps prevent low blood sugar in full-term babies.
Why is colostrum good for newborns?
Colostrum has all the nutrients your baby needs in the first few days of life. It’s also packed with nutrients and vitamins to strengthen your baby’s immune system.
The flow of colostrum from your nipples is slow so your baby can learn to breastfeed (nurse). Learning how to breastfeed takes practice and requires your newborn to not only learn to suck and swallow but breathe at the same time.
Does leaking colostrum mean labor is close?
Colostrum leaking from your breasts doesn’t mean labor is coming. Leaking colostrum is normal and some people notice it as early as the second trimester. Some don’t notice any signs of leaking colostrum while others will see dried colostrum on their nipples. If you are leaking colostrum, you can wear disposable or washable breast pads.
Can you express colostrum if you’re pregnant?
Colostrum can be expressed by about week 37 in pregnancy and is beneficial for some people. Using your hands to compress your breasts in a rhythmic pattern so that milk comes out is called hand expressing. Expressing colostrum before your baby is born carries some risks like contractions or premature labor. It can be beneficial to those at risk for premature birth, low milk supply or when certain health conditions present.
Speak with your healthcare provider before you remove colostrum from your breasts. If you are leaking colostrum, it may be safe to collect and store it for when your baby is born.
Cow Colostrum Benefits For Baby
Colostrum promotes growth and health in infants and newborn animals, but research shows that taking bovine colostrum supplements may promote immunity, help fight infections, and improve gut health throughout life.
This article reviews the nutrition, benefits, and possible downsides of bovine colostrum supplements.
Colostrum is a milky fluid that’s released by mammals that have recently given birth before breast milk production begins.
It’s an important source of nutrients that promotes growth and fights disease in infants, but it can also be consumed during other phases of life — typically in supplement form.
Even though all mammals produce colostrum, supplements are usually made from the colostrum of cows. This supplement is known as bovine colostrum.
For these supplements colostrum from cows is pasteurized and dried into pills or into powders that can be mixed with liquids. Bovine colostrum typically has a light yellow color and a subtle taste and smell that resembles buttermilk.
Colostrum is a milk-like fluid released from the breasts of mammals after they have given birth. It’s high in nutrients that promote infant growth but may also provide other benefits. Supplements are typically made from bovine colostrum.
Bovine colostrum is extremely nutritious and contains more nutrients than regular milk.
In particular, it’s higher in protein, fat, carbs, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and E than cow’s milk (1).
While colostrum is rich in macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, its claimed health benefits are mostly linked to specific protein compounds, which include:
- Lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a protein involved in your body’s immune response to infections, including those caused by bacteria and viruses (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
- Growth factors. Growth factors are hormones that stimulate growth. Bovine colostrum is especially high in two protein-based hormones, insulin-like growth factors 1 and 2, or IGF-1 and IGF-2 (1).
- Antibodies. Antibodies are proteins, also known as immunoglobulins, used by your immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. Bovine colostrum is rich in the antibodies IgA, IgG, and IgM (1, 2).
Since bovine colostrum is loaded with nutrients that fight disease and promote growth, it may be able to boost immunity, treat infections, and offer more related benefits in humans throughout life.
Bovine colostrum contains macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It’s especially high in protein compounds that regulate immune responses and promote growth, including lactoferrin, growth factors, and antibodies.
May Boost Immunity
Bovine colostrum may strengthen your immune system and help your body fight disease-causing agents.
Research shows that colostrum supplements may be particularly effective in boosting immunity in elite athletes.
One 12-week study in 35 adult distance runners found that taking a daily bovine colostrum supplement increased the amount of saliva IgA antibodies by 79%, compared to baseline levels (8Trusted Source).
The researchers suggested that higher saliva levels of IgA may strengthen immunity and enhance the body’s ability to fight upper respiratory tract infections (8Trusted Source).
Another study in 29 male cyclists observed that taking 10 grams of bovine colostrum a day for 5 weeks prevented a postexercise decrease in immune cells and reduced the risk of upper respiratory infection symptoms compared to a placebo (9Trusted Source).
Other studies have similarly linked bovine colostrum supplements with enhanced immune response, but more extensive research is needed (10Trusted Source).
May Prevent and Treat Diarrhea
The compounds in bovine colostrum — especially the variety of antibodies and the protein lactoferrin — may help prevent diarrhea associated with bacterial and viral infections (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
A study in 87 adults experiencing diarrhea associated with HIV found that taking 100 grams of bovine colostrum a day along with traditional anti-diarrheal medications significantly decreased stool frequency by 21% more than traditional medications alone (13Trusted Source).
What’s more, cows can be given immunizations against specific strains of bacteria to produce colostrum high in antibodies that can fight specific infections (14Trusted Source).
These types of bovine colostrum are considered hyperimmune and could be an effective way to treat certain infections in humans, such as those caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Shigella dysenteriae bacteria (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
For example, studies show that hyperimmune colostrum may prevent a type of diarrhea known as traveler’s diarrhea, which is typically caused by E. coli bacteria.
One study in 30 healthy adults found that those who took a daily dose of 1,200 mg of hyperimmune bovine colostrum containing antibodies that fight E. coli bacteria were 90% less likely to develop traveler’s diarrhea than those taking a placebo (17Trusted Source).
May Benefit Gut Health
Bovine colostrum may strengthen your gut and fight infections in the digestive tract.
Both animal and human studies show that bovine colostrum may stimulate the growth of intestinal cells, strengthen the gut wall, and prevent intestinal permeability, a condition that causes particles from your gut to leak to the rest of your body (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
One study in 12 athletes who were susceptible to intestinal permeability due to heavy exercise found that taking 20 grams of bovine colostrum a day prevented 80% of the increase in intestinal permeability experienced by those who took a placebo (19Trusted Source).
Another study observed that colostrum enemas may be helpful in treating colitis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the colon.
A study in 14 adults with colitis who were taking traditional medications found that taking bovine colostrum enemas in addition to regular medications reduced symptoms more than medication alone (23Trusted Source).
Both human and animal studies suggest that bovine colostrum may enhance immunity, fight infections, and benefit gut health. However, more research is needed to better understand the effects of this supplement on human health.
Based on limited human research, bovine colostrum generally appears safe for most people — though it may have some downsides.
For one, bovine colostrum supplements and powders are expensive, ranging from $50 to $100 per 16 ounces (450 grams). A typical dosage is half a teaspoon (1.5 grams) per day.
People who are allergic to milk should not consume bovine colostrum. Products may also be made with additives that can include other common allergens like soy.
Depending on how the cows are raised, bovine colostrum may also contain antibiotics, pesticides, or synthetic hormones. However, you can purchase colostrum supplements that have been tested to ensure that the final product does not have these compounds.
Also, it’s unknown whether these supplements are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
In addition, some people may be concerned about the ethics of how bovine colostrum is sourced and whether it’s taken from calves that need it.
Finally, there may be food safety issues with bovine colostrum. In one study, 8 of 55 samples of bovine colostrum contained traces of Salmonella, a potentially harmful bacteria (26Trusted Source).
Still, if bovine colostrum is properly pasteurized, Salmonella and other harmful bacteria should not be a concern.
Always purchase colostrum supplements from a reputable source and contact the manufacturer for answers to specific questions related to sourcing and processing.
Bovine colostrum supplements can be expensive and may contain common allergens like milk and soy. There may also be concerns about the ethics of bovine colostrum sourcing and possible food safety issues.
Bovine colostrum is a supplement made from a milky fluid that’s released from the udders of cows shortly after they’ve given birth.
Rich in disease-fighting compounds, it may increase immunity, fight infections that may cause diarrhea, and improve gut health. Still, more research is needed.
While bovine colostrum appears to be safe for most people, some may be concerned about how it’s sourced and processed. It can also be expensive.
However, bovine colostrum may be helpful if you have a specific condition, infection, or gut inflammation.