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Should I collect colostrum during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, many changes occur to the breasts. Some women may find themselves leaking colostrum during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy. Leaking colostrum during pregnancy is perfectly normal.

The next question women ask is often, "Should I collect colostrum during pregnancy?" Expressing colostrum during pregnancy is typically considered safe. There are however many questions surrounding prenatal colostrum collection. In this article we will learn about the benefits of prenatal colostrum expression, how to collect colostrum, and frequently asked questions about expressing colostrum in pregnancy.


Benefits of collecting colostrum during pregnancy.

Collecting colostrum during pregnancy has been shown to be beneficial for some families. Infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes may have an increased risk of low blood sugar at birth, increasing the risk of supplemental feeds or medical intervention. These interventions can sometimes inhibit the initiation of breastfeeding and ultimately negatively impact breastfeeding overall. If the mother has colostrum on hand, she can try administering that to a baby with low blood sugar to help the baby regulate their blood sugar levels. This can prevent the need for oral glucose, sugar water, or formula supplementation.

Colostrum can also be handy for a baby who is struggling to latch. If your baby is struggling to transfer breastmilk early on, the stored colostrum can be an option for supplementing before turning to formula.

How to express colostrum during pregnancy

If you decide to collect the leaking colostrum during pregnancy, you're probably wondering exactly HOW to do that. My recommendation for collecting colostrum during pregnancy is utilizing hand expression. Hand expression during pregnancy is considered generally safe as it is gentle and not likely to induce contractions. Anyone who is not medically prohibited from having sex during pregnancy is likely safe to hand express colostrum.

Using a breast pump in pregnancy

Some people might consider using a breast pump during pregnancy to collect hand expression. While one short pumping session is unlikely to be harmful, pumping during pregnancy is actually one of the proven techniques of natural labor induction. If you are wanting to use a breast pump to express colostrum, I would suggest talking to your healthcare provider about this and deciding if its a good option for you. I do not typically recommend a breast pump for colostrum collection during pregnancy or even postpartum, as colostrum is very sticky and it can be hard to get the small amounts of sticky milk off the sides of the flange and bottle.

Storing colostrum that you collect

You can hand express your colostrum into a variety of containers. It is recommended to store colostrum in the freezer in 1ml syringes. You can hand express into a clean bottle or bowl and then use the syringe to draw in the colostrum, but this might risk losing some volume. Some pump companies do offer an adapter that connects directly to a syringe. This option, however, may be better suited for postpartum colostrum collection, for the reason mentioned above about pumping during pregnancy. Another option would be a hand expression funnel. This small funnel connects to the end of a syringe, and you would drip the colostrum into the funnel directly to the syringe. This would minimize volume loss.

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Questions about prenatal expression of colostrum.

You probably have a thousand and one questions about prenatal colostrum expression. I'm going to answer some frequently asked questions here and want to invite you to ask any of your own questions in the comments below.

Should I express colostrum during pregnancy?

Whether or not you should collect colostrum during pregnancy depends on a lot of thing like your risk of having a baby with low blood sugar, a baby in the NICU, or a baby who might struggle to latch. If you're at higher risk of these occurrences, you might want to collect prenatal colostrum. Even if you have no risk factors, if you are leaking colostrum, you might choose to collect it for the "just in case" situations, if it puts your mind at ease.

What if I am not leaking colostrum?

While leaking colostrum is totally normal, it's also perfectly normal not to leak colostrum. Not everyone can easily collect colostrum during pregnancy. If you're not likely to be in a high risk situation where you might need colostrum, rest easy. Even if you are high risk for needing expressed colostrum, you can start regular hand expression and with some patience and perseverance, you may begin being able to collect it more easily.

Will I still have colostrum for my newborn?

Some women worry that collecting colostrum during pregnancy will use up all their colostrum and then they won't have colostrum for their baby. Don't worry! That's not how this works. God created our bodies so fantastically. The separation of the placenta will trigger the body to go into "milk making mode" where it will begin to produce the colostrum your baby needs. Your body will respond to your babies needs! Since milk is made on a supply-demand cycle, you don't have to be concerned about prenatal expression being harmful for your newborn.

Does pregnancy colostrum have same nutritional value as postpartum colostrum?

This is a question that still needs more research. It is commonly observed that prenatal colostrum may be less viscous (not as thick) and clearer than postpartum colostrum. However, every woman and her body is different. One thing we know for sure it that prenatal colostrum can help regulate blood sugar levels postpartum, so while it may or may not be sufficient as full sustenance, it's absolutely a beneficial supplement when needed.

What questions do you have about expressing colostrum during pregnancy? If you're concerned about starting your breastfeeding experience off on a good foot, I highly recommend a prenatal lactation consult. Prenatal lactation consults can help you prepare for a variety of concerns postpartum, and answer any personal questions your breastfeeding class didn't answer.

For more pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding tips, follow me on instagram @littlebearbirthservices


Jaimie Zaki is a lactation consultant and virtual doula in Wichita Falls texas offering in person support and virtual breastfeeding and pregnancy help

Jaimie Zaki is an IBCLC, doula, mother, and photographer living in Wichita Falls, Texas where she supports women both in person and virtually as they prepare to welcome their new babies. Jaimie offers prenatal birth plan consults, virtual pregnancy and labor support, prenatal lactation consults, and virtual and in person breastfeeding help visits. Click here if you'd like to work with Jaimie to prepare for your little bear's arrival.

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Keywords: colostrum, prenatal colostrum expression, leaking colostrum in pregnancy, collecting colostrum in pregnancy, hand expression in pregnancy, pumping in pregnancy

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