It is normal to produce colostrum during pregnancy. Colostrum production typically begins during the second trimester of pregnancy. Before the breasts begin to produce milk, they produce colostrum, which is a substance rich in nutrients that helps provide for the nutritional needs of a newborn. In addition, colostrum can help the newborn baby fight off infections and help with digestion. Because colostrum has a low volume propensity, the baby may need to breast feed every couple of hours.
Since many pregnant women are unaware that producing colostrum during pregnancy is normal, they are often surprised when their breasts begin expressing the yellow, thick substance. Although colostrum is typically yellow, it can sometimes appear to be clear. Colostrum contains protein and is high in antibodies that can strengthen the immune system. It may appear that the baby is only receiving small amounts of colostrum from each feeding, but the quantity is usually enough to provide benefits.
The production of colostrum during pregnancy sometimes doesn't begin until right before birth. It is further stimulated when the baby begins breast feeding, as breast feeding causes it to be expressed with breast milk. Sometimes, newborn babies get a condition known as jaundice, which is characterized by a yellowing of the skin and the eyes. Although usually mild, jaundice caused by an elevation in bilirubin levels can cause complications if not treated. Colostrum can help prevent or reduce jaundice.
Because the production of colostrum during pregnancy is sometimes mistaken for breast milk, pregnant women often question why they are expressing breast milk before delivery actually occurs. This is a common concern and easily explainable to the concerned mother-to-be. Occasionally, breast feeding can be a challenge for the new mother. Sometimes, newborns have difficulty latching on to the breast when they are first learning to breast feed. With practice and patience, the breast feeding challenge is generally overcome without complications.
The amount of colostrum that is expressed is tiny in comparison to the amount of breast milk. Since colostrum is so thick and rich, consuming large amounts of it would prove irritating to the sensitive digestive system of the baby. In fact, colostrum can affect the digestive system so much that it is frequently what promotes a baby's first bowel movement in the breast feeding baby. Certain babies, however, may not be able to tolerate breast milk. In these cases, the pediatrician can recommend nutritious alternatives in the form of commercial baby formula.