Colostrum Feeding and Collection: Protecting the Patient's Liquid Gold

Jess Sember, MSN, RN, IBCLC, CPLC, CCE, SBD / November 2022

“Every drop counts” is a phrase you may have heard before. When we think about the benefits of breast milk – and specifically colostrum – for all babies, it’s easy to know why this phrase was coined.

The breasts begin producing colostrum during pregnancy, with production continuing through the first few days after the baby’s birth. During the first 24 hours after birth, the volume of colostrum yielded varies but the average amount is about 30 mL or 1 oz. This correlates with the small belly sizes of a newborn baby.

Function of Colostrum and Purpose of Colostrum Feeding

  • Immunity
  • Nutrition
  • Development of gut microbiota, which aids in digestion

Passive immunity across the placenta begins in the third trimester of pregnancy through the immunoglobulin IgG. But when born prematurely, depending upon when in gestation, the baby misses out on some of this passive immunity. This makes the immunity role of colostrum even more important.

So, you may be asking yourself, “what components are in colostrum that make it so good for infants and how can I help a pump-dependent mother capture every drop?”

Colostrum is comprised of components such as protein, oligosaccharides and fatty acids that exist in high concentrations. Colostrum aids in protecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts against pathogens. It also helps the gut grow good bacteria for future protection from pathogens. Colostrum is tailor-made; specifically produced by mother for baby to include antibodies against bacteria and viruses she has been recently exposed to. This will help protect the baby, who is born with little immunity.

Secretory Immunoglobulin A

Also known as Secretory IgA or sIgA, this is a protein and the most abundant immunoglobulin in colostrum. It is specific for the microbes that are found in the mother’s environment and helps provide protection to the upper respiratory tract and gut mucosa in more than one way. sIgA prevents pathogens from adhering to the surface of the gut and neutralizes viruses and toxins.

Did you know that that sIgA works against:

E. coli, Clostridium Difficile, Salmonella, Rotavirus, Giardia lamblia, Vibrio Cholerae, Entamoeba histolytica, and poliovirus!

Lactoferrin

Preterm infants need extra protection and are more vulnerable than term infants, and colostrum recognizes this! Levels of lactoferrin are higher in preterm colostrum versus term gestation colostrum. Lactoferrin is responsible for antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory functions. Lactoferrin also decreases the incidence of lower respiratory tract infections, duration of dehydrating diarrhea, and severity of rotavirus infection. Lactoferrin works by binding to iron, which prevents pathogenic organisms from obtaining iron necessary for their survival.

The Importance of Capturing Every Drop

If you’ve ever helped a new mother with pumping or hand expression, colostrum is noted to be a thick liquid. Babies that latch to the breast for feeding are able to pull the colostrum from the breast with little difficulty, as the infant is the GOLD standard for removal of colostrum and breast milk from the breast.

If a mother is pump-dependent, it can be difficult to collect the thick drops of colostrum as she is pumping. Because colostrum is so thick, it may not make it to the bottle but instead become lost within the pieces of the pump kit – such as the yellow valve and white membrane. That is, until NOW!

Colostrum Feeding and Collection with Medela’s Colostrum Collector

The new Colostrum Collector was designed with ease of use in mind and attaches to the tubing of  Symphony PLUS® pump kits seamlessly. When a mother uses the Colostrum Collector during a pumping session, her colostrum is safely and securely collected and ready for easy storage.

Assembly:

  1. Remove the Colostrum Collector from its packaging
  2. Avoid touching the inside of the lid or collector, and set aside
  3. Attach the bottom of the Colostrum Collector to the Symphony breast pump kit connector. Orient the Colostrum Collector with the two raised marks (smiley faces) facing up to avoid colostrum spilling from the vent holes.
  4. Attach the breast shield to the top of the colostrum container
  5. Assemble the remaining breast pump kit as directed in the Symphony breast pump kit instructions

As healthcare professionals, we know that every drop counts and now it’s that easy to help a new mom have a positive pumping experience and to help the baby receive all of the important immune, digestive, and nutritional benefits of colostrum!

About the Author

headshot jess sember 2 low res version

Jess Sember MSN, RN, IBCLC, CPLC, CCE, SBD, began her nursing career over 15 years ago as a labor and delivery nurse. She has worked in various roles throughout her career including lactation consultant for NICU, postpartum and post discharge patients, childbirth educator, research coordinator, and has served as a nurse leader coordinating Perinatal Education and Perinatal Bereavement programs. Education and perinatal bereavement have always been areas of special interest to Jess; wanting to help patients in their time of need.  Jess currently works full-time as a Clinical Education Manager, NICU & Maternity Care for Medela LLC.