Colostrum Part 2: A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

June 4, 2021

Colostrum is present for weeks before birth. Actually, the secretion of colostrum begins at approximately 16 weeks’ gestation.

After birth, in the first days, even a little bit of this density-packed liquid goes a long way. While many mothers share that they think they “don’t have any milk” in the first days – hopefully it is reassuring when they learn that many actually have just the right amount.

According to the Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, in the first 24 hours, the average amount of colostrum produced is 37 mL, with the infant ingesting approximately 7-14 mL per feed. By day of life 3, the mother can make an average 24-hour production of 408 mL and the infant ingests 27 mL per feed. By day of life 5, the total daily production increases to 705 mL with the infant’s stomach capacity 57 mL per feed.

Here is the summary of that information

First 24 hours — 37 mL total — 7-14 mL per feed

By day of life 3 — 408 mL total — 27 mL per feed

By day of life 5 — 705 mL total — 57 mL per feed

This shot glass of my daughter’s breast milk contains 1.5 ounces or 45 mL. So that is a little more than all the colostrum a mother makes in the first 24 hours of her baby’s life.

Of course, making sure the “system” is responding normally is the tricky part which is why watching the infant’s weight loss, number of feeds, the latch, and number of pees and poops are so important.

Maternal conditions that can delay the onset of full milk production and raise a red flag include:

  • Advanced maternal age

  • Cesarean birth

  • Diabetes Type 1 or II

  • Labor: long stage II

  • Labor: maternal fluid overload

  • Obesity / elevated BMI

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility

  • Primiparity

  • Retained placental fragments

  • Sheehan Syndrome

  • Surgery: breast reduction

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References

1. Core Curriculum for Interdisciplinary Lactation Care. Edited by Suzanne Hetzel Campbell, Judith Lauwers, Rebecca Mannel, and Becky Spencer. LEAARC (Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee). Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2019

2. Core Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition. Edited by Rebecca Mannel, Patricia J. Martens, and Marsha Walker. Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2013