Colostrum is the nutrient- and antibody-rich fluid produced during late pregnancy and the early days after birth. The yellow- or orange-coloured colostrum gradually changes to mature breast milk throughout the two weeks following birth, according to La Leche League International. Although colostrum levels fall as milk matures, breast milk remains colostrum-rich during these first two weeks.
You can save colostrum in glass or plastic containers and refrigerate or freeze it for later use.
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Things you need
- Breast pump
Choose a container in which to store colostrum. La Leche League International leader Cindy Scott Duke reports that "The Breastfeeding Answer Book" recommends glass as a first choice, clear hard plastic as a second choice and cloudy hard plastic as a third choice for storing frozen breast milk.
Plastic bags are a convenient choice because they can be directly connected to some breast pumps and take up less freezer space. There are specially designed, pre-sterilised bags for storing breast milk. Bottle-liner bags are not recommended.
Glass shouldn't be used if you plan on using the milk within 24 hours, says International board-certified lactation consultant Anne Smith. White blood cells in colostrum will adhere to the glass and then detach after 24 hours. These cells do not stick to plastic. Refrigerate milk if you're using it within eight days, Smith says, because freezing destroys some white blood cells. Plastic also thaws out faster than glass.
Cool the colostrum. Colostrum will keep at room temperature (27.0 to 32.0 degrees C) for up to 12 hours, especially that collected within the first week after delivery, Smith says. Both breast milk and colostrum are rich in antibacterial defences because they are living substances. Breast milk can last in a cooler with ice packs for 24 hours. You may use a small cooler or insulated bottle to store colostrum until you get it to the refrigerator or freezer.
Fill the container and date it. Milk expands as it freezes so leave an inch at the top of the container. Fill the container with 59.1 to 118ml of the expressed fluid. It's better to save colostrum in small batches rather than risk wasting it.
Although the average amount of pure colostrum is less than 28.4gr on the first day after birth, this amount increases over following days. As breast milk begins to mature, it contains high levels of colostrum during the first two weeks. You can add expressed colostrum to a previously frozen batch if you cool it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and if there is more frozen milk than fresh colostrum. Label each container with the date the colostrum was expressed.
You can freeze colostrum in ice cube trays and then place them in containers. Each cube measures about 28.4gr.
Save colostrum in your freezer for three to six months. If the door is opened often, this time period could be compromised. You can store expressed breast milk in a freezer chest for six to 12 months. Thawed breast milk or colostrum will keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Tips and warnings
- Thawed colostrum might take on a soapy smell and be rejected by infants, Duke says. This might be because of freeze-thaw cycles in self-defrosting freezers.
- Pink-tinged milk is usually a sign of blood in the milk. Cracked nipples are often the cause but not always. This blood is not harmful to babies. Contact your doctor if the blood continues two weeks after birth.
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