Having a baby is a life-changing experience, and just as your baby continually develops and changes, so too does your breastmilk.
There are different types of breastmilk that your body will produce, depending on the stage of your pregnancy and then the age of your baby as he/she moves through his/her developmental stages.
The first type of breastmilk your body will produce is the colostrum – produced during the last stages of pregnancy ready for baby’s birth and first feed. Colostrum is produced in quite small quantities and is also known as ‘liquid gold’. It has been given this nickname as it contains everything your baby needs in the first few days, being high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins (an antibody used by the immune system to neutralise bacteria and viruses). It can help to reduce jaundice, clear meconium and also has a laxative effect to help your baby to poo (an important part of the post-birth process).
Colostrum can look quite different to breastmilk of later stages, being quite thick in its consistency, and yellow/orange in appearance. In terms of quantity, your baby will have a stomach the size of a cherry and will only need small amounts. Colostrum is so important to baby in the first few days – no doubt other reasons for its given nickname of liquid gold!
Gradually over the two to three weeks after baby’s birth, the colostrum will make transitional changes into mature milk. About three to five days after birth, you will find the breastmilk becomes more of a white milky colour, as your mature milk is produced and mixes with the colostrum. The mature milk is produced as baby needs more of it, and the breasts will start to produce larger quantities to meet this need.
Once the milk has transitioned fully to mature milk, it then remains fairly stable in its consistency and colour, although it may still vary from feed to feed as your baby grows. It adapts to meet the nutritional needs of your baby, providing lifelong health benefits due to being high in proteins, lactose, and other vitamins and minerals.
This is all pretty amazing stuff isn’t it – and it gets even better! Studies and mums have proven breastmilk to be even more fantastic, with its use not just for feeding baby, but also to treat infections, to heal nappy rash, to soothe teething pain and to treat minor cuts and sores.
Breastmilk, and the mums who produce it – we salute you! The adaptation of your bodies and breastmilk to meet the needs of your precious babies as they grow is truly awesome. Mums, you are amazing.