Colostrum Harvesting (Guide)

Colostrum is the first milk produced by the breasts during pregnancy. It is rich in antibodies and nutrients that are essential for the newborn’s health. Harvesting colostrum can be beneficial for both the mother and the baby, providing a backup plan for breastfeeding and promoting bonding. This comprehensive guide will provide the key steps and techniques for successful colostrum harvesting.

colostrum harvesting

Key Takeaways:

  • Colostrum is the first milk produced by the breasts during pregnancy, rich in antibodies and nutrients.
  • Harvesting colostrum can serve as a backup plan for breastfeeding and promote bonding.
  • Colostrum harvesting can benefit babies facing feeding difficulties or requiring extra care.
  • Start hand expressing colostrum around 36-37 weeks of pregnancy and gradually increase frequency and duration.
  • Proper storage and labeling are crucial for maintaining colostrum quality.

What is Colostrum and Its Benefits?

Colostrum is the first breast milk produced by the mother’s body during pregnancy. It contains antibodies that help protect the baby against infections and diseases, as well as bioactives that support immune system development and gut function. Colostrum is also easy for newborns to digest, making it an ideal first food.

Additionally, collecting and storing colostrum can serve as a backup plan for breastfeeding and promote bonding between the mother and baby.

  1. Immune-Boosting: Colostrum is rich in antibodies and other immune-enhancing substances that help protect the baby from infections and support their developing immune system.
  2. Easy to Digest: The composition of colostrum is specifically designed for newborns, making it easier to digest compared to mature breast milk or formula.
  3. Backup Plan: Collecting and storing colostrum provides a backup plan in case breastfeeding poses challenges or is temporarily unavailable.
  4. Bonding: The process of colostrum harvesting promotes bonding between the mother and baby, as it allows for close physical contact and nurturing interactions.

By understanding the benefits of colostrum, mothers can make informed decisions about harvesting and utilizing this precious resource for their baby’s health and well-being.

Who Can Benefit from Colostrum Harvesting?

Colostrum harvesting can be particularly beneficial for babies who may experience feeding difficulties or have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels in the first few days after birth. It is especially recommended for babies who are large or small for their gestational age, twins or triplets, have cleft lip or palate, Down’s syndrome, or a heart condition. It can also be beneficial for mothers who are taking beta blockers, have developed pre-eclampsia, have diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), have breast hypoplasia, or have a high body mass index (BMI).

“Colostrum harvesting can provide essential nutrition and support for babies who require special care due to medical conditions or feeding difficulties.”

The Benefits for Babies

  • Aids in regulating blood sugar levels
  • Enhances immune system function
  • Supports healthy growth and development
  • Helps establish a strong gut microbiome
  • Improves overall health and wellbeing

The Benefits for Mothers

  • Promotes bonding with the baby
  • Provides a backup plan for breastfeeding
  • Reduces the risk of engorgement
  • Supports milk production
  • Boosts maternal confidence

Colostrum harvesting ensures that babies receive the vital nutrients and antibodies they need, especially in cases where direct breastfeeding may be challenging or not possible. It offers a valuable opportunity for mothers to provide special care and medical support to their babies during these critical early days.

Medical Conditions Recommended for Colostrum Harvesting
Cleft lip or palate Yes
Down’s syndrome Yes
Heart condition Yes
High body mass index (BMI) Yes
Beta blockers Yes
Pre-eclampsia Yes
Diabetes Yes
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Yes
Breast hypoplasia Yes

How to Start Colostrum Harvesting

Colostrum harvesting is an important step in preparing for breastfeeding and providing essential nutrition to your baby. Starting the process at around 36 to 37 weeks of pregnancy can help ensure a sufficient supply of colostrum for your newborn.

One of the key techniques for colostrum harvesting is hand expressing. Begin by gently massaging your breasts to stimulate milk production. Then, using clean and sterilized hands, place your thumb above your nipple and your index and middle fingers below it. Gently press your fingers inward and downward towards your chest, avoiding any pain or discomfort. Repeat this motion for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration and frequency as you approach your due date.

Breast massage can further enhance the effectiveness of hand expressing. Use circular motions and light pressure to stimulate milk glands and encourage colostrum flow. This technique can be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing difficulties with colostrum production.

Hand Expressing Tips Breast Massage Tips
  • Ensure good hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly before expressing colostrum.
  • Choose a comfortable and relaxing environment to aid the process.
  • Apply warm compresses or take a warm shower before expressing to promote milk letdown.
  • Experiment with different hand positions and techniques to find what works best for you.
  • Start with gentle circular motions on the breast, gradually increasing pressure if comfortable.
  • Focus on stimulating all areas of the breast to ensure optimal milk flow.
  • You can use your fingertips, palm, or the base of your hand to massage the breasts.
  • Explore different massage techniques, such as compression or kneading, to find what feels most effective.

When collecting colostrum, it is important to use clean and sterilized syringes. This ensures the purity and safety of the collected milk. The amount of colostrum you collect may vary, but even a few drops can be valuable for your baby’s early nutrition.

Remember to label each syringe with the date and time of expression for proper storage and tracking. Properly storing the collected colostrum in the freezer or fridge maintains its quality until it is needed.

“Hand expressing colostrum and incorporating breast massage techniques are effective ways to initiate colostrum harvesting. These practices allow mothers to collect valuable colostrum for their newborns, promoting early nutrition and bonding.”

By following these techniques, you can confidently start colostrum harvesting and provide your baby with the essential nutrients and antibodies they need for a healthy start.

Tips for Effective Colostrum Harvesting

When it comes to colostrum harvesting, there are several key tips to keep in mind to optimize the process and ensure the best results. From breast stimulation to proper storage and labeling, here are some expert recommendations:

Breast Stimulation

To maximize colostrum production, regular breast stimulation is essential. One effective method is hand expressing. Gently massage your breasts before and during expressing to stimulate milk flow. This technique not only helps in colostrum collection but also prepares your breasts for breastfeeding. Take your time during this process, ensuring a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Nipple Care

During colostrum harvesting, it’s crucial to take care of your nipples to prevent any discomfort or complications. Clean your nipples with mild soap and warm water before expressing colostrum. After expressing, apply a nipple balm or moisturizer to keep them nourished and hydrated. Proper nipple care ensures a pleasant experience and helps maintain nipple health during the entire breastfeeding journey.

Storage and Labeling

Proper storage of colostrum is vital to maintain its quality and ensure its efficacy for your baby. After expressing colostrum, use clean and sterilized syringes to store it. Label each syringe with the date and time of expression to keep track of freshness. This allows you to use the oldest colostrum first and avoid any wastage. Depending on your anticipated usage timeline, you can store colostrum in the freezer or fridge. Here’s a handy table to guide you:

Storage Method Duration
Freezer Up to 6 months at -18°C
Fridge Up to 24 hours at 2-4°C before freezing

Remember to follow the recommended temperature guidelines and always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

In summary, effective colostrum harvesting requires regular breast stimulation, proper nipple care, and meticulous storage and labeling. By following these tips, you can ensure a successful and rewarding colostrum harvesting experience for yourself and your baby.

Safety Precautions and Considerations

While colostrum harvesting can be a beneficial practice for many expectant mothers, there are certain situations where it may not be advised. It is important to consider these safety precautions to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Firstly, if a mother has a cervical suture or stitches in place, it is recommended to avoid colostrum harvesting. The presence of these sutures may increase the risk of complications during the process.

Prior experience of premature labor is another consideration to keep in mind. If a mother has previously gone into premature labor, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before engaging in colostrum harvesting to assess the potential risks and determine if it is appropriate in the current pregnancy.

Experiencing contractions or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is a red flag indicating high-risk situations. In such cases, colostrum harvesting should be avoided, as these signs may indicate the need for immediate medical attention. It is crucial to reach out to a healthcare provider for guidance and evaluation in these situations.

Consulting with a healthcare provider before initiating colostrum harvesting is essential to ensure the safety and appropriateness of the practice based on individual circumstances. Your healthcare provider will be able to evaluate your specific situation and provide personalized guidance and recommendations.

Always prioritize the well-being of both the mother and the baby. By considering these safety precautions and consulting with a healthcare provider, you can make informed decisions regarding colostrum harvesting that align with your specific circumstances.

Storing and Using Harvested Colostrum

After successfully harvesting colostrum, it is important to store it properly to maintain its quality and ensure its usability when needed. Freezing and refrigerating are the two main methods used for colostrum storage. Additionally, proper transportation and utilization of harvested colostrum can be crucial in certain situations. Let’s take a closer look at these aspects:

Freezing Colostrum

If you intend to store colostrum for an extended period, freezing is the recommended method. Colostrum can be stored in the freezer at a temperature of -18°C for up to 6 months, preserving its nutritional value and beneficial properties. Freezing colostrum allows you to have a backup supply for future use.

Refrigerating Colostrum

If you plan to use the harvested colostrum within a shorter timeframe, refrigeration is an option. Colostrum can be stored in the fridge at a temperature of 2 to 4°C for up to 24 hours before freezing. Refrigerating colostrum ensures its freshness and minimizes the risk of bacterial growth.

Transporting Colostrum

When transporting colostrum to the hospital or another location, it is essential to maintain its freshness and prevent spoilage. To do this, store the colostrum in a resealable bag with ice packs. This will help maintain the desired temperature and ensure the integrity of the harvested colostrum during transportation.

Extra Feeds

Harvested colostrum can serve as a valuable resource for providing extra feeds to your baby if needed. Whether it’s due to feeding difficulties or other circumstances requiring supplemental nutrition, colostrum can be used as an alternative to formula milk. Its natural composition and immune-boosting properties make it an excellent option for supporting your baby’s health during these additional feeding sessions.

Remember, it’s important to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance on colostrum storage, transportation, and utilization based on your specific situation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colostrum Harvesting

If you have questions about colostrum harvesting, we’ve got you covered. Here are some common inquiries and their answers:

Can colostrum harvesting induce labor?

Generally, colostrum harvesting does not induce labor. It is a natural process that prepares your breasts for breastfeeding and provides essential nutrition for your baby.

How long can colostrum be stored?

Colostrum can be stored for different durations depending on the storage method. When frozen at a temperature of -18°C, it can last up to 6 months. If refrigerated at a temperature of 2 to 4°C, it can be stored for up to 24 hours before freezing.

What can I do to increase colostrum production?

There are several methods you can try to increase colostrum production. Breast stimulation through hand expressing and breast massage can help stimulate milk production. It is also important to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and maintain a healthy diet.

Are there alternative containers for colostrum storage?

Yes, there are alternative containers for colostrum storage. Apart from syringes, you can use small storage bottles or breast milk storage bags specifically designed for colostrum collection. Make sure the containers are sterile and properly labeled before storing.

What support can midwives provide for colostrum harvesting?

Midwives can provide valuable support and guidance throughout the colostrum harvesting process. They can offer advice on proper techniques, help address any concerns or difficulties you may have, and provide reassurance and encouragement.

Remember, it is essential to follow guidelines and seek advice from healthcare professionals for specific concerns regarding colostrum harvesting.


Colostrum harvesting is a valuable practice for mothers to prepare for breastfeeding and provide essential nutrition for their newborns. By collecting and storing colostrum, mothers can have a backup plan if breastfeeding is initially challenging or if they need to be separated from their baby for any reason. The rich antibodies and nutrients in colostrum can help protect the baby against infections and promote healthy growth and development.

For babies who may face feeding difficulties or require extra care, such as those with cleft lip or palate, down syndrome, or a heart condition, colostrum harvesting can be particularly beneficial. Colostrum is easy to digest, making it an ideal first food for newborns. Harvesting colostrum also allows mothers to establish a positive bonding experience with their baby during the earliest stages of life.

However, it is important for mothers to consult with healthcare providers for personalized guidance and support throughout the process. Healthcare providers can offer advice on the best techniques for colostrum harvesting, as well as address any concerns or challenges that may arise. With the right information and support, mothers can optimize their baby’s health and feeding experience through colostrum harvesting.


Can colostrum harvesting bring on labor?

Generally, colostrum harvesting does not bring on labor.

How long can harvested colostrum be stored?

Harvested colostrum can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months at a temperature of -18°C or in the fridge for up to 24 hours at a temperature of 2 to 4°C before freezing.

Are there methods to increase colostrum production?

Regular breast stimulation through hand expressing and breast massage can help maximize colostrum production.

Can alternative containers be used for storing colostrum?

It is recommended to use clean, sterilized syringes for collecting and storing colostrum. This ensures proper storage and prevents contamination.

What support can midwives provide during colostrum harvesting?

Midwives can offer guidance and support throughout the colostrum harvesting process, addressing concerns and providing personalized advice.

Related Posts