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Colostrum is the thick, nutrient-rich milk produced by your breasts during your pregnancy and the first few days after your baby is born. It is the perfect first food for your baby – providing just the right amount of calories, nutrients, and antibodies to protect and nourish your new baby.

Colostrum is thick and sticky, and creamy yellow to orange in color. It is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies. It is extremely easy to digest and acts as a laxative, helping him or her to expel meconium and excess bilirubin, which can help prevent jaundice. It contains a large amount of the antibody secretory immunoglobulin (IgA), which protects the mucous membranes in your baby’s throat, lungs, and intestines. Colostrum also helps protect your baby from bacteria, viruses, and other toxic material by forming a protective film over your baby’s porous intestines to prevent any foreign substances from entering. Colostrum also contains high concentrations of protective white cells, called leukocytes, which destroy disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

Your breasts only produce a small amount of colostrum, but that’s all your newborn needs – or can handle – in the first few days. A one-day-old newborn’s stomach can only hold about 5 to 7 ml of liquid, or about the size of a small marble. By three days old, his stomach has grown to hold approximately 0.75 to 1 ounce, (about the size of a large marble) and by the end of his first week, his stomach can handle about 1.5 to 2 ounces of liquid, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Newborns’ stomachs don’t stretch like older children’s do, so if they ingest too much milk, it will be spit up. Small and frequent feedings will ensure your baby receives all the nutrition necessary to thrive.

With consistent breastfeeding, your breasts will begin producing transitional milk by the third or fourth day after birth, and mature milk after approximately two weeks. As your mature milk comes in, it will appear thinner and whiter in color and the volume will increase while the concentration of antibodies decreases; however, the disease-fighting properties of breastmilk never completely disappear – your baby will continue to receive immunological protection as long as he breastfeeds.

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