Colostrum Benefits for Baby
By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk produced by the body during pregnancy and the first milk your baby will get from your breasts if you breastfeed. [1-2] Colostrum is formed in the mammary glands of the breasts and differs slightly from typical breastmilk in both appearance and nutritional makeup.
What Does Colostrum Look Like?
Colostrum has actually been coined “liquid gold” because of its health benefits as well as its appearance.  Colostrum often has more color than mature breast milk and can appear yellow, deep yellow, or even orange, similar to an egg yolk.  Colostrum may not look the same for everybody and can also appear white, clear, or creamy. It is usually thick and sticky to the touch.
How Long Is Colostrum Produced?
The body will begin to make colostrum between weeks 12 and 18 of pregnancy until a few days after delivery. [1-2] It’s common for people to only produce a small amount of colostrum in the first 24 hours after childbirth, but the output will slowly begin to increase as it changes from transitional to mature breast milk. The pregnancy hormones created by the placenta are what help the body create colostrum and the decrease in these hormones after childbirth is what tells the body to begin producing milk.  While the body only produces colostrum for about five days after birth, traces of colostrum can be found in breast milk for up to six weeks. [1-2] Learn how to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant.
Benefits of Colostrum
Colostrum is a very nutrient-dense milk that provides many different benefits for your baby. [1-2] Colostrum is high in protein, white blood cells, antibodies, antioxidants, magnesium, copper, and other nutrients.  Colostrum is also lower in fat and sugar, making it easier for your baby to digest. Health benefits of colostrum include [1-4]:
- Strengthens the immune system
- Stimulates cell growth
- Supports vision and skin health
- Promotes a healthy heart
- Supports bone development
Newborns have very fragile immune systems as their bodies don’t produce many antibodies. A major role of colostrum is to provide high concentrations of various antibodies and white blood cells that can help your baby fight off infection. [1-4] Additionally, your own antibodies to various diseases can be passed on to your baby through your colostrum and breast milk.
Colostrum is also vital for establishing healthy gut bacteria.  Establishing healthy bacteria in the gut is very important for healthy digestion and other health outcomes. 
How Much Colostrum Does a Newborn Need?
Newborns have very small stomachs, about the size of a marble.  Because of this, they really only need about an ounce of colostrum every day, which is about a teaspoon per feeding. Newborns can eat around eight to 10 times a day in the first few days of life.  Your body will naturally begin to produce more colostrum and transitional milk as your baby’s needs increase. Still, if you’re worried you aren’t producing enough colostrum or that your baby isn’t eating enough, speak to a healthcare provider.
Am I Making Enough Colostrum?
If you’re concerned about your colostrum output, you are not alone. Many people have concerns about their babies eating enough, their milk production, and more. The good news is that it’s rare for someone to not make colostrum. You shouldn’t expect a high volume of colostrum immediately after giving birth. [1-2] Your baby only needs to eat a small amount, and your body is very in tune with your baby’s needs. If your baby is wetting their diaper and seems to be gaining weight, they are likely consuming enough colostrum. You should also make sure you’re eating enough and staying hydrated while breastfeeding. If you do have concerns, don’t be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider. Shop breastfeeding-safe hydration drink mix
Should I Save Colostrum?
It’s clear that colostrum provides many health benefits, but is it necessary to save colostrum? You should always consult your provider before attempting to hand express colostrum, especially if you haven’t yet given birth.  It’s typically recommended that you let your baby breastfeed soon after birth so they can get the benefits of skin-to-skin contact as well as the nutritional benefits of colostrum.  Most people typically aren’t producing enough colostrum that there will be a need to store or pump any excess, but you can talk with your provider if you are interested in this option. If you are given the green light to express and store your colostrum, you should ensure it is stored in a sterile container and left in a refrigerator or freezer.  Refrigerated colostrum can be kept for about two or three days, while frozen colostrum can be kept for at least three months.  Pumping colostrum can be difficult due to its thick consistency. Hand expressing may be easier and may produce more colostrum than pumping.
Transitional and Mature Breast Milk
Colostrum is only produced for a few days after delivery. Your body will begin producing transitional breast milk for about two weeks, and eventually, you will produce mature milk.  The transition from colostrum to transitional milk is sometimes referred to as milk “coming in.” The breasts will feel full, firm, and tender, and your milk production will increase as your baby’s stomach expands. Learn about the let-down reflex.
Prepare for Breastfeeding with Natalist
Breastfeeding is a beautiful way to bond with and feed your baby, but it can also lead to cracked nipples, sore breasts, fatigue, and more. You should speak with your provider about your supplementation routine and whether a postnatal vitamin is right for you. You may also benefit from Natalist Nip & Lip Balm, a soothing and moisturizing balm that’s safe for use while breastfeeding. Find other postpartum essentials here.
Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.
Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, health equity, and mentoring. She is the CEO of The EpiCentre, an OBGYN spa-like practice, and is a Clinical faculty member of Charleston Southern University. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women.
- Colostrum. Cleveland Clinic. February 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22434-colostrum
- Jozsa F, Thistle J. Anatomy, Colostrum. [Updated 2023 Feb 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513256/
- Notarbartolo V, Giuffrè M, Montante C, Corsello G, Carta M. Composition of Human Breast Milk Microbiota and Its Role in Children's Health. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2022;25(3):194-210. doi:10.5223/pghn.2022.25.3.194
- Uruakpa, FO, Ismond, MAH, Akobundu, ENT. Colostrum and its benefits: a review. Nutrition Research Volume 22, Issue 6, June 2002, Pages 755-767. Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5317(02)00373-1
- Widström AM, Brimdyr K, Svensson K, Cadwell K, Nissen E. Skin-to-skin contact the first hour after birth, underlying implications and clinical practice. Acta Paediatr. 2019;108(7):1192-1204. doi:10.1111/apa.14754