Antenatal Colostrum Harvesting
So what is Antenatal Expressing of Colostrum?
It is the hand expression and collection of colostrum during pregnancy (yes so before your baby is here!). Once your milk is collected you can then freeze it and give it to your baby after the birth.
Did you know that from week 16 of your pregnancy, you will start to make colostrum?
We recommend expressing from approx 36/37 weeks. Always let your LMC/OB know if you are keen to express colostrum and get the go ahead from them first.
Having a wee stash of milk can be super helpful post-natally especially if your baby is at increased risk of having low blood sugars in the first few hours after birth. Here are times when it is good to think about Antenatal Colostrum Harvesting.
Diabetes in pregnancy (pre-existing or gestational). A baby born to a mother who has diabetes during pregnancy is at risk of low blood sugar after birth. Receiving extra colostrum at this time can help a baby’s blood sugar level to stabilize.
Elective caesarean sections
Breast surgery (including breast reduction)
Strong family history of dairy intolerance or inflammatory bowel disease
Previous poor milk supply
Diagnosed with cleft lip and/or palate and other congenital abnormalities (Babies with these conditions may not be able to breastfeed well and so you may need to express your milk to be able to give it to your baby. Expressing colostrum antenatally can mean you have extra on hand if needed)
Intrauterine growth restriction – IUGR/SGA
Large for Gestational Age (LGA)
Be mindful that if you are harvesting colostrum you may experience some uterine contractions (Braxton Hicks), this is not a concern unless they become regular and painful. STOP hand expressing and rest. Notify your LMC.
Reduced fetal movements
Any vaginal bleeding
History of threatened/actual preterm labour
Cervical suture in situ
Some maternal medication, e.g. some anti-epileptic medication, some antidepressants.
Check with Lactation consultant.
Elicit drug use
The easiest way to collect your milk is in 1ml syringes or a colostrum collector then just pop the milk in the freezer in a snap lock bag until you need it. Just don’t forget to grab your syringes before you head to the hospital to have your baby.
The amount of milk you can express will vary and this is normal. The Diabetes and Antenatal Milk Expressing (DAME) 1 study (Forster et al, 2014) found that the volume varied depending on the number of expressions, length of time between onset of expressing and birth, and the time spent expressing, with a median of 14 days of expressing and 40mL (range 5 to 310mL) obtained.