Liquid Gold: Pumped Colostrum and How to Store It
The birth of a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming for new mothers. You’re faced with incredible physical and emotional demands, and the new chapter is only beginning. You’re now ready to take your first step along your breastfeeding journey.
It’s common for new mothers to struggle with nursing. In fact, 92% of new mothers struggle with breastfeeding in the first three days post-partum. Breastfeeding isn’t always successful on the first try. Babies often have difficulty latching on, and sometimes a mother’s milk supply isn’t abundant. Luckily, pumping is an effective way to express milk for the baby and helps produce and maintain milk supply for mom.
The earliest supply of milk – colostrum – has some of the most important nutrients mothers can supply their newborns. Colostrum is essential to babies in the first few days after birth. To set yourself up for success, it’s helpful to know what to do with pumped colostrum and how to store it.
Why is Colostrum Important?
Until full milk production begins two to three days after birth, new moms produce small amounts of colostrum. Also called “liquid gold,” this thick, yellowish milk is rich in nutrients and carbohydrates. In addition to providing essential nutrition to the baby, colostrum helps with digestion and bowel movements in newborns. This is important in ridding the baby’s body of toxins that can cause jaundice.
Colostrum is also high in white blood cells and antibodies that develop the baby’s immune system. It builds a protective coating in their digestive system that helps prevent the growth of disease-causing germs. It’s a baby super-food and is an invaluable asset to their health and well-being.
What to Do with Pumped Colostrum
A baby only consumes small amounts of colostrum in its first days. Regardless, studies show that expressing these low quantities within the first hour of birth can prevent delays in milk production. If a newborn doesn’t nurse within six hours after birth, it’s a good idea for mom to begin pumping. Make sure your hands are clean and that any collection tools are sterilized for the baby’s safety. Once you’re ready to pump colostrum, you’ll want to follow these next steps.
1. Collect It in a Container
Many new moms prefer to use a syringe or Hegen’s revolutionary press-to-close, twist-to-open airtight storage bottles to collect colostrum. As you pump the breast, you’ll notice beads of liquid forming. Gather this in one of the containers and, once complete, put the syringe in a sealable baggie or close the bottle tightly. Then, write the date on the container so you can keep track of your stored supply.
2. Feed It to Your Baby
Once you’ve collected colostrum, it’s ready for consumption. You can administer it via a syringe or small bottle (remember, quantities will be relatively low). You can also feed drops of it to your baby on a clean finger. Every bit is packed with nutrients to help your baby’s development.
3. Store It for Future Use
If your colostrum production is going well and you’re building up a steady supply, you can store it for future use. In fact, some women begin collecting their colostrum before the baby actually arrives. In a typical healthy pregnancy, there’s no need to express colostrum before giving birth. However, in some instances, it’s beneficial to collect colostrum toward the end of the pregnancy. Harvesting colostrum this early may be recommended if:
- You’re having twins – birth weight tends to be low for multiples.
- You have health concerns – gestational diabetes can affect the baby’s glucose levels at birth.
- Your baby has a cleft lip or palate – this can make breastfeeding difficult.
Whatever the case, pumped colostrum can be collected and saved for when the time is right.
4. Bring It to the Hospital
If you do decide to pump and store your colostrum before giving birth, be sure to include this in your hospital bag list to take along with you when you head to the hospital for delivery. Carry it in an insulated bag with ice packs and ask the nurse to store it in the maternity ward’s refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. This colostrum will be safe for use for up to 48 hours.
4 Tips for Storing Colostrum
Breastfeeding mothers can ensure the safety and quality of expressed breast milk by following proper storing techniques. Consider these four tips for storing colostrum safely.
Properly Seal the Container
To maintain freshness and quality, be sure your storage container is completely sealed. Never use disposable bags or liners to store pumped colostrum. These aren’t designed to protect against bacteria and germ growth.
Consider Shelf Life
Colostrum can be stored at room temperature for up to four hours. It can remain in a refrigerator for up to four days. You can store pumped colostrum in the freezer for up to six months (for best quality) or 12 months, at most. If you’re uncertain about how long your colostrum has been stored, it’s best to dispose of it. Better safe than sorry!
When storing expressed colostrum in the refrigerator or freezer, set the container at the back of the shelf where temperatures are coolest. Avoid storing it in the door compartment, as opening and closing the fridge will expose stored colostrum to frequent temperature changes that can negatively impact its quality and freshness.
Store It On-the-Go
With careful planning, it’s possible to travel safely with stored colostrum. Pack the container in an insulated bag and surround the colostrum with ice packs. It can remain safe for consumption this way for up to 24 hours. When your journey is over, use it right away or store it in the fridge or freezer.
Additional Colostrum Questions
We've received quite a few questions from moms who have reached out to us.
We will continually add to this post as we receive new questions and want to thank those who have helped to provide us with great questions that will eventually help so many other new moms!
Is Frozen Colostrum good for a sick baby?
Yes, frozen colostrum does help a sick baby. Research studies have proven that sick or preterm infants who take colostrum from mothers have “significantly better health outcomes”. Colostrum is made up of immune factors, protein, sugar, and facts. Therefore, every drop counts!
How Long Does Colostrum Last in the Freezer?
Colostrum can last 2 to 6 months with a separate door freezer (5 degrees Fahrenheit or -15 degrees Celsius) with proper storage.
What Should I Do with Frozen Colostrum That's Been Stored For More than 6 Months?
If the colostrum has been stored with a deep chest freezer (-4 Fahrenheit or -20 Celsius) is fine!
How Do I Pump Colostrum After Birth?
Colostrum is thick, sticky, concentrated milk. The best way to collect the colostrum is by hand expressing. Remember the best pump is still the baby. If your baby suckles well, you can just concentrate on latching for the first few days. Unless a baby is separating from his/her mother due to medical reasons, you, as a mother, need to start pumping 8 to 12 times a day.
What is the Best Way to Reheat Colostrum (if any) or Best Methods For Thawing Colostrum For the Baby?
Place the frozen container in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. Then warm the milk by placing it in a bowl of warm water or by simply using an electric warmer.
Are There Any Negatives to Giving Colostrum to a Toddler?
Colostrum will not negatively affect toddlers because of the amazing antibodies in the breast milk!
Is Colostrum Considered Better Than Breast Milk?
It is important to note that breast milk changes from colostrum, transitional milk to to mature milk to meet your baby’s nutritional needs at the different stages.
Tips For Hand Expressing Colostrum
Starting by massaging the breast with clean hands to help milk flow. Then by placing your thumb and the rest of your fingers on either side of the areola, about an inch away, gently push your fingers back & towards your chest wall, then compress the milk ducts of the breast, and roll the tissue forward & towards the nipple. Be sure not to squeeze the nipple or slide fingers along your skin.
When is the Best Time to Start Expressing Colostrum?
From 36 weeks of gestational age onwards, mothers are encouraged to harvest colostrum with a proper technique. You can start 2 or 3 times a day and each time for about 3 to 5 minutes, but you'll need to stop if you experience cramps or early contractions to avoid premature delivery.
How Long Do You Produce Colostrum For After Birth?
Colostrum is usually produced for the first few days (usually 3 days ) after the baby’s birth. However, some mothers might not see colostrum until day 5 after giving birth due to various factors.
Can you collect some Colostrum and then pump some more later and add to the original bag?
If the colostrum was stored inside the freezer or fridge and you need to add more to it later, you need to ensure the colostrum is the same temperature. We would suggest to first store the second round of colostrum in a different container and keep it inside the fridge for at least 1 hour. This allows the milk to cool to the same temperature as the initial container which makes it safe to combine.
You can also opt to align their temperatures by keeping it out. Please make sure it remains under 77°F (under room temperature). At this temperature, it can last for approximately 4 hours. This allows for ample time to combine the two containers together but do kindly ensure proper hygiene to minimize contamination.
Hegen Helps New Moms Pump and Store Their Colostrum
Today’s women are juggling their passions, careers, and responsibilities with the full-time job of motherhood. While it’s a wonderful adventure, being a mom brings numerous challenges. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be one of them. At Hegen, we want to make breastfeeding easier, rewarding, and empowering. From state-of-the-art breastmilk storage supplies to educational resources, we cover all the bases for you as you transition to your new role.