The first milk you produce – Colostrum, is the ideal nourishment for a newborn. It is so full of proteins and is nutrient-dense – so even a little amount goes a long way in your baby's little tummy.
In addition to being easy to digest, it is overflowing with ingredients that start your baby's development.
And even more importantly, it plays a vital role in developing the immune system.
About two-thirds of the cells present in colostrum are white blood cells. These cells not only guard against infections but also prepare your baby to start fighting infections for himself.
Having left the protection and warmth of your womb, your baby needs to be prepared for challenges in the world around. The white blood cells in colostrum produces antibodies that neutralizes bacteria and viruses. These antibodies are extremely effective against tummy upsets and diarrhea.
Colostrum contains various components that support your baby's development and growth. It maintains the same composition until about 30 hours after birth. Also, colostrum has a similar make-up to that of amniotic fluid, which your newborn has been swallowing and excreting in your womb, so it helps ease his transition to the outside world.
In addition to protecting your baby against tummy upsets, colostrum also acts like a laxative that makes your newborn poo frequently. This helps empty his bowels of everything he ingested while he was still in the womb.
A baby is born with high levels of red blood cells, which take oxygen around the body. As these cells break down, his liver helps to process them by creating a by-product called bilirubin. If your baby's liver isn't well-developed to process the bilirubin, it will build up in his system, causing jaundice. It is the laxative properties of colostrum that helps your baby flush out bilirubin.
It's the vitamin A and carotenoids present in colostrum that give it its distinctive yellow color. Vitamin A is crucial for the development of your baby's vision as well as keeping his skin and immune system healthy. Babies are often born with deficiency of vitamin A. It is the colostrum that helps meet this deficit.
Colostrum is also rich in minerals like magnesium, copper and zinc. Magnesium supports your baby's heart and bones while copper and zinc help in the development of the baby's immune system. Zinc also contributes in the brain development.
After 2-4 days of breastfeeding, your breast milk is likely to come in. By this time, you will notice that your breasts feel firmer and fuller. Instead of colostrum they will now produce transitional milk, which is comparatively whiter in color and creamier in texture.
It almost seems unimaginable now, but in a years' time your baby would be probably crawling and on the verge of talking. Even though you only produce colostrum for a short period of time, it makes an immense contribution in overall development in the first 12 months, and to the rest of his life.