Collecting your colostrum while you are pregnant

During your pregnancy, your breasts will start to produce breast milk (the exact timing of this varies from person to person). The first breast milk your body makes is known as colostrum. Colostrum is the perfect source of nutrition for your baby because it: 

  • contains antibodies which protect your baby from infection and help their immune system to develop 
  • helps your baby’s digestive system to develop, which protects your baby from allergies 
  • encourages your baby to open their bowels and pass ‘meconium’ (your baby’s first black, sticky poo) which reduces their risk of jaundice (a common and usually harmless condition in new-born babies that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)

Colostrum is very concentrated. At birth, your baby’s stomach is about the size of a cherry, so they will only need a small amount of colostrum at each feed to receive all the nutrients they need. 

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You can hand express and freeze your colostrum during the last few weeks of your pregnancy (from 36 weeks of pregnancy). Learning how to hand express your colostrum during the last few weeks of your pregnancy will enable you to: 

  • become familiar with your breasts and how they work 
  • store colostrum for your baby in case they need encouragement with feeding 
  • feel more confident with hand expressing your breast milk after your baby is born

Please do not worry if you are not able to collect any colostrum during this time. Practising hand expressing will help to stimulate your milk production, regardless of the amount of colostrum you produce. 

Your midwife will explain how to hand express and store your colostrum and give you a colostrum collecting kit. It is important to use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have. They will also check that it is safe for you to collect your colostrum during pregnancy. 

Don’t forget to bring your colostrum into the hospital with you in a cool bag with a freezer pack. 

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