Thursday, January 28, 2010

Question about Pregnancy Colostrum

I have a friend whose body has a hard time getting to full term. She just had twins at 30 weeks and is breastfeeding them- yay! She even gets to bring them home from the hospital during the day, which is really neat.

Her experiences made me think about breastfeeding premies. At first I thought, "Well, I don't know if I really need to research that; going by my medical history, I don't think I'm particularly prone to preterm labor."

And then I thought, "Well, it's not like anyone plans to go into labor early. Wouldn't it be better to know something ahead of time instead of cramming all that info in once it happens? That would be a stressful time without having to figure out the best way to breastfeed!"

So I looked it up and read what I had on my shelf about breastfeeding premies. I started with The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding because I've found it to be a good starting place on many topics. I found something interesting:

Milk from mothers who deliver prematurely contains greater amounts of antibodies and of some important nutrients than does the milk of mothers delivering at term. It has been found that some of these differences are evident for as long as six months. (page 281 of the 7th edition)

Well, that's curious! Then I wondered, "Does that mean when my body starts making colostrum around 5 or 6 months, Margaret will be getting an extra boost of antibodies she wouldn't normally be getting?"

Anyone know? At the back of the book they give the references for that statement. Maybe I'll have to run down to the University and see if they have those periodicals on hand...


  1. Interesting to think about. The only thing is that the reference says "milk from mothers who deliver prematurely". We know there is a change that happens in what is being produced after a baby is born. But when the colostrum comes during pregnancy, your body recognizes that even though there is nursing stimulation, the baby hasn't been born yet. So.....what I'm really trying to say is that I don't know! :D The colostrum is full of good stuff no matter what. But being better than normal may be exclusive to premature birth and the changes that it causes in a mother. Can't wait to see if you find out the answer!

  2. I'm not sure about whether or not the body produces the extra stuff before or after birth, but I did learn (I think in a bf class) that the milk of mothers with premies has a higher fat content, providing more calories to help the baby catch up in weight. It really is amazing how our bodies know what to do and what "kind" of milk to produce, based on the needs of the baby and its circumstances.

  3. I was just wondering because it would seem that the colostrum you'd be pumping/feeding in the first 24-72 hours wouldn't be so different from what you're making during pregnancy- and even then it takes weeks before your milk is fully matured and has no more colostrum in it, you know?

    And it is cool that our bodies know exactly what to feed our babies! It's like magic!

  4. I love coming here, Heather. I'm always learning something new, and you're always making me think.

  5. I don't have any references, but I have heard that the milk produced will fit the preemie's needs. I thought it was higher in protein, but someone else said fat--maybe it's both? I don't know if the colostrum has extra antibodies in it, but I wouldn't be surprised. I think it's fascinating that whenever the baby comes out, it's like the body checks the calendar and decides what kind of milk to produce!


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