Breastfeeding is challenging. I honestly thought I had experienced pretty much most things with my partner. Giving birth and the events that followed brought a brand new dimension to our relationship.
Sitting there massaging my breasts while hubby ‘caught’ drops of colostrum with a syringe was definitely not one of the things that I expected to experience with him.
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first fluid produced by breastfeeding mums, and it’s extremely beneficial to newborn babies. It introduces immunoglobulins from mother to baby, which helps activate the baby’s immune system. It’s super rich in nutrients too, including eight growth factors that promote normal cell growth, DNA synthesis, fat utilization and increased mental acuity.
So, you can see how important that colostrum is for your newborn. In fact, midwives call it “liquid gold”.
Catching Colostrum With a Syringe
After my cesarean, literally within hours, I was handed an empty syringe and told to start “catching colostrum”.
My first thought was wondering why I couldn’t just put the baby to my breast. Then when you start trying to squeeze your breast for that “liquid gold” to come out, you realise that a newborn would have to have a pretty amazing sucking reflex to be able to suck it out.
The fact is that it takes time for your milk to come in, and it starts off slow. Really slow.
It took me 45 minutes at a time to catch just 2ml of colostrum – yes 2ml! This might not sound like much, but according to the midwives, this is apparently a great amount to get in the first few days post-birth.
It is definitely a different experience – sitting there with my breast in my hand massaging it using olive oil, while hubby held the syringe trying to help me catch each drop of colostrum. He had such a serious look on his face, and although I felt close to tears trying to squeeze each drop out, I also giggled as I kept thinking of the Pokemon saying “Gotta catch em all!”
Colostrum Catching: Tips and Tricks
My best tips from my experience?
- HAVE A MIDWIFE DEMONSTRATE – This is not a time to be modest. Ask a midwife to show you how it’s done. They have seen plenty of breasts in their time, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Use the opportunity to talk to them about your concerns, fears, ask them questions, and don’t be afraid to shed a tear of worry or relief. They are there to help you.
- OLIVE OIL – use it to massage your breasts as you work at squeezing out that colostrum. It was recommended by the midwives, and so much better for aching, swollen breasts than using nothing at all!
- GET A HAND – Literally get an extra hand to help you out. After a cesarean birth, I could barely sit up to even SEE my breasts, so I struggled like crazy doing it on my own. Having my husband help me was definitely strange, but I couldn’t have done it without him.
- BE PATIENT – It takes time, and it’s not easy. It can feel like forever catching one drop at a time, and you start to wonder whether it will add up to something that is actually useful! Well it is useful, and that’s why the midwives call it “liquid gold”; but don’t be hard on yourself if you are’t getting much colostrum out. Sometimes all you need is time – it may take an extra day or so to get more colostrum, and sometimes a bit of extra sleep can make all the difference too.
Eleni Fegan is the founder and Managing Editor of DearBub Blog and Magazine which began from a personal journey of research and healing. Her motivation for DearBub is beautifully summarised in her Editor’s Letter: “I realised that there is beauty to giving voice to our experiences, and raising an awareness that we are not alone in them. I realised the immense power that ‘sharing’ had in transforming our sense of self and being through creating connection”.