Colostrum: The First Milk

The thick milk called ‘yellow gold’.

Verified by:
iMumz Expert Panel
Updated on:
September 30, 2022

All About Colostrum

Colostrum is the first form of breastmilk that is released by the mammary glands after giving birth. It's nutrient-dense and high in antibodies and antioxidants to build a newborn baby's immune system. It changes to breast milk within two to four days after your baby is born. Colostrum is thicker and more yellow than traditional breast milk. It gets its colour from carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a vital role in your baby's vision, skin and immune system. Colostrum is rich in magnesium, which supports your baby’s heart and bones, and copper and zinc, which also support immunity. Colostrum is often a deep, rich yellow or orange colour, almost like the yolk of an egg. This is because it contains high levels of beta carotene. It can sometimes appear white, clear or creamy. It's a thicker consistency than breast milk (or cow's milk), but the thickness varies from person to person. Colostrum is often sticky and can contain faint traces of blood (this is normal).

Very less colostrum is needed

The baby will suck out only about two teaspoons of it. Suckling on colostrum for a few days will get your baby off to the healthiest start in life while stimulating the production of the next course: transitional milk.

What is colostrum made of?

Colostrum is high in protein and low in fat and sugar. It's filled with white blood cells that produce antibodies. These antibodies strengthen your baby's immune system, protecting him or her from infection. Colostrum is highly concentrated and nutrient-dense even in tiny doses, so your baby's tummy doesn't need a lot to reap its benefits. Your body produces colostrum for up to about five days after your baby is born. After approximately three or four days, colostrum will turn to transitional milk. This is often referred to as someone's milk "coming in." Your breasts will feel firm, tender and full. It means your milk supply has increased.

Why is it called ‘yellow gold’?

Let’s look at the nutrients in colostrum:

  • Immunoglobulin A (an antibody).
  • Lactoferrin (a protein that helps prevent infection).
  • Leukocytes (white blood cells).
  • Epidermal growth factor (a protein that stimulates cell growth)

How does it help?

  • Helps strengthen your baby's immune system.
  • Helps to establish a healthy gut by coating the intestines. This helps keep harmful bacteria from 

being absorbed.

  • Offers ideal nutrition for a newborn.
  • Has a laxative effect that helps your baby clear meconium (your baby's first poop) and lessens 

the chance of jaundice.

  • Easy to digest.
  • Helps prevent low blood sugar in full-term babies.

What's the difference between colostrum and breast milk?

Colostrum is a nutrient-rich first milk produced by your breasts during pregnancy. It changes to transitional breast milk a few days after your baby is born. However, small amounts of colostrum remain in your breast milk for several weeks.

There are distinct differences between colostrum and breast milk:

  • Colostrum is filled with immunoglobulins to boost your baby's immune system and protect it from illness.
  • Colostrum has two times as much protein.
  • Colostrum has four times as much zinc.
  • Colostrum is lower in fat and sugar so it's easier to digest.
  • Colostrum is thicker and more yellow.

What are the stages of breast milk?

There are three different stages of breast milk: colostrum, transitional milk and mature milk.

  • Colostrum: Your first milk that lasts between two and four days after birth.
  • Transitional milk: Begins approximately four days after birth and lasts about two weeks.
  • Mature milk: Milk that lasts from approximately 14 days after birth until you are done producing milk.

Is it okay to squeeze out colostrum?

If you want to hand express colostrum for your newborn, follow these steps:

  • Cup your breasts with your hand in a "C" shape. Four fingers should be under your breast and 

your thumb should be above your nipple.

  • Use your thumb and index finger to gently squeeze your areola and nipple.
  • Repeat several times and in a pattern. Apply firm pressure but do not slide your fingers. 

If colostrum doesn't come out, try moving your fingers to another spot.

  • Colostrum should slowly flow out within minutes. It's thick and comes out in drops.
  • You can repeat this a few times per day.

Please note that expressing colostrum before your baby is born carries risks. 

Some people can go into premature labour or begin having contractions.