Hey guys, let’s talk milk. (Again… )
What Is Colostrum?
In it’s most basic of terms, colostrum is the liquid your breasts produce before your ‘real’ milk ‘comes in.’ Sometimes described as ‘liquid gold,’ colostrum is a word that begins being thrown around during pregnancy, often with little to no follow up. “Well as long as they get the colostrum, that’s what really matters,” for example, and “the colostrum is what’s really important!” As a mum-to-be, such statements can easily send you into the whirling vortex known as ‘OH GOD I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING’ land, but it needn’t. Because I’m about to explain a little about what colostrum actually is, and why everyone raves about it so much.
First things first, colostrum is milk. It’s just that it’s the first batch, so to speak, and hasn’t yet become the consistency and colour you’d expect your milk to be. It is usually present immediately after birth, and is enough to feed your infant, despite only being released in small quantities. Golden and stickier than mature milk, colostrum is ‘a very concentrated food, so your baby will only need a small amount, about a teaspoonful, at each feed.’ (NHS) ‘Highly concentrated, full of protein and nutrient-dense, it’s also low in fat, easy to digest, and brimming with components that start baby’s development in the best possible way. And, perhaps even more importantly, it plays a crucial role in building his immune system.’ (Medela)
Claimed to also help fight infection, support healthy gut function, prevent jaundice, and supply your newborn with a whole host of vitamins and minerals, it’s really no wonder that the term ‘liquid gold’ is only partially derived from the colour of the substance itself.
Colostrum sticks around for the first few days, before being replaced by the more mature milk supply, which you may have heard referred to as your milk ‘coming in’. So if you’ve ever been told this takes a few days to establish, and have found yourself thinking ‘but then what will my baby eat in the meantime?’ there is your answer.
And if you’re now thinking ‘OK, so baby won’t go hungry, cool… But how will I know when my milk has properly come in?’ trust me, you’ll know. The words ‘porn star t*ts,’ spring to mind…
What Is Cluster Feeding?
Ah, cluster feeding. How do I explain thee?
Quite easily, actually, which may come as a relief to anyone reading this.
Cluster feeding is, quite simply, a period of time in which your baby will choose to have several short ‘meals’ (/feeding sessions) in favour of one long one. So if you tell a mum friend ‘he’s fed three times in the last hour’, and she replies ‘oh he’s just cluster feeding’, what she’s really saying is ‘don’t worry pal, it’s totally normal, and it will probably pass quite soon.’
There are different theories around why cluster feeding occurs – some say growth spurt, some say comfort, some say it’s the baby’s way of ensuring a good chain of supply and demand within your breasts.
But that’s not what’s important. The important thing is, as I say, it’s normal. Your baby will not do it forever. You are not, in any way, getting feeding ‘wrong,’ and you will soon be able to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time without needing to produce the next meal.
And, perhaps most important, is that dad knows now is the time to be on hand with biscuits. You’ll probably not be moving for a little while. And chocolate Hobnobs are good for milk supply (some claim… Though possibly just as an excuse to eat more chocolate Hobnobs)
PS. Formula fed babies cluster feed too. Again, totally normal. You got this!
All information correct – to the best of my knowledge – at time of publishing. Information gathered through a combination of personal experience, discussions with other mothers, internet research, reading parenting books, and speaking to medical professionals during my pregnancy/early motherhood. Please remember that I am not a medical expert myself, I am just a mum trying to help other mums get a grasp on their new role