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    Home ›› Colostrum harvesting: Your guide to liquid gold

    Home ›› Colostrum harvesting: Your guide to liquid gold

    Colostrum harvesting: Your guide to liquid gold


    7 min. read


    It might be news to you, but some mothers are choosing to collect colostrum in the days leading up to birth, as it’s a great way to kickstart your milk supply and offer your baby the best start once they arrive earthside.


    If you’re expecting your baby soon, your midwife may talk to you about it in your third trimester anyway, but in the meantime, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll share information on colostrum harvesting including:


    • What is colostrum?
    • What are the top 5 benefits of colostrum harvesting?
    • When to start collecting colostrum?
    • What is the proper colostrum harvesting technique?
    • Are there any storage tips for colostrum harvesting?
    • What do you need to keep in mind when you decide to combination feed after expressing colostrum?


    So, whether you’re curious about collecting colostrum before birth, want to discover exactly what colostrum is, or need tips for storing your colostrum, read on.

    What is colostrum?


    Colostrum is the first milk you produce during pregnancy ahead of giving birth. Here are several facts about this so-called liquid gold before we explore the benefits and tips for colostrum harvesting:1,2


    • Colostrum is thicker than mature milk and is golden yellow in colour.
    • Colostrum is tailored to your newborn, high in protein and low in fat.
    • Colostrum is easy for your newborn to digest.
    • Colostrum is highly concentrated, and your baby only needs a small amount to achieve optimum nourishment.

    Top 5 benefits of colostrum harvesting


    Now you understand what colostrum is, why should you collect colostrum? Here are the top five benefits of colostrum harvesting:3,4


    1. Colostrum contains antibodies. These help to protect your baby from infection.
    2. Colostrum has the perfect hormone balance. These help to kickstart your baby’s immune system and establish gut microbiomes.
    3. Colostrum helps regulate your baby’s blood sugar. Supplementing breastfeeding with collected colostrum can give you a helping hand if you need it.
    4. Colostrum encourages bowel movements. Helping your baby pass their first poo which can reduce the risk of jaundice.
    5. Colostrum harvesting helps you learn how to hand express. This offers a confidence boost for expressing after birth, and helps you learn the technique should you need it to relieve engorgement.

      Top tip: If you are struggling to collect colostrum by hand, why not try the Philips Avent manual breast pump? The soft massage cushion stimulates milk flow, and it’s designed for ease of use at home or on the go.

    6. Colostrum harvesting kickstarts your milk production. This will make breastfeeding your baby and expressing your milk after birth easier. For more information check out our guide on when milk comes in after birth.

    When to start collecting colostrum


    So, when should you start collecting colostrum?


    • You can start colostrum harvesting at around 36 weeks pregnant.5
    • Collecting colostrum can be done multiple times a day using the same collector.
    • Any amount of colostrum collected can be beneficial, so don’t panic if you can only get a small amount.


    Top tip: Not sure how to store your colostrum? Our Avent breastmilk storage containers are a great choice. There’s no more worrying about spilt milk with their secure lids, and even have an area to track your collection and use-by dates with ease.

    What you need

    Proper colostrum harvesting technique


    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you learn the ideal colostrum harvesting technique:3


    1. Only collect colostrum when you are calm and relaxed.
    2. Wash and sterilise your collector and storage container.
    3. Wash your hands.
    4. Massage your breasts.
    5. Make a ‘C’ with your hand and cup your breast, 2-3cm from the nipple.
    6. Gently compress the breast tissue with your thumb and forefinger.
    7. Release your breast and repeat steps 5 and 6 in a rhythmic motion.
    8. It may take a few minutes before beads of colostrum start to form.
    9. Collect the beads as they form using your other hand.
    10. Continue until the flow stops.


    Did you know…? Breastmilk is 87% water6, so staying hydrated is key if you want to collect colostrum. Water is best, but if you’re wondering if you can stay hydrated with your favourite cup of coffee, check out our guide to coffee in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

    Storage tips for colostrum harvesting


    Here are our top tips for storing your liquid gold when you collect colostrum:


    • Keep your colostrum in the collector syringe or decant it into a sterilised, sealed container.
    • Use a new collector or container each day, ensuring you label it with a collection date.
    • Store the collector or container at the back of a fridge for up to 5 days.
    • Alternatively, colostrum can be stored in a deep freezer for up to 6 months.

    An introduction to combination feeding after expressing colostrum


    For some, deciding to combi-feed is a great way to share your baby’s feeds and you can start straight from birth if you start collecting colostrum before birth:


    • Expressing your colostrum can help to kickstart milk production, allowing you to provide that all-important first milk immediately after birth even if your baby requires a stay in the NICU.

      Top tip: For more information, tips, and tricks when it comes to expressing your breastmilk for combination feeding, check out our guide for all things breastmilk expressing including frequency and duration.

    • If you are choosing to combi-feed from birth, choose a bottle that mimics the breast to make the transition easier for your baby.

      Top tip: Philips Avent Natural Response baby bottles are a great choice of BPA-free, anti-colic bottles that mimic the shape of the breast with a soft and flexible teat ideal for combination feeding.

    • Starting to combination feed once your baby has an established breastfeeding routine is preferable, but in cases where your baby may need to be bottle fed from birth, colostrum harvesting ensures they still get that immune-boosting first milk.

      Top tip: Once you’ve started bottle feeding, make sure you know how to bottle feed the right way with our simple guide.

    • You can start by using the colostrum collector syringe to provide your baby with this liquid gold, and then introduce bottles gradually.

    • Use a bottle that is suitable for after birth.

      Top tip: Philips Avent Natural Response baby bottles with AirFree vent help to provide calm and comfortable feeds, supporting your baby's unique suck, swallow, and breathing rhythm.


    With that, you have a comprehensive guide to colostrum harvesting, from what it is, why it’s beneficial, and how to collect colostrum. Now all that’s left to do is get started!

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