NUTRITION CORNER: Colostrum – the baby’s perfect first food

Colostrum, a thick, sticky, yellowish fluid that is secreted from a mother’s breast after giving birth is the baby’s perfect first food as it has a high concentrations of important nutrients and antibodies that the newborn needs.

While it may be small in quantity – maybe a few teaspoons  only at a time over the first few days after the baby was born, this is sufficient for the newborn as his stomach can only hold 5-7 ml of fluid.

This thick, yellowish fluid keeps babies healthy and resist infection. Health authorities say it serves as the newborn’s first immunization. Scientific studies show that colostrum contains large numbers of immunoglobin that help protect the mucous membranes of the throat, lungs and intestines from germs. Leukocytes are also present to protect against viruses.

The mother has a natural library of antibodies which were developed to counter disease-carrying pathogens she was exposed to in her lifetime, and these are automatically duplicated in the pre-milk fluid (colostrum) she produces to give to her newborn. These antibodies serve as vaccines, which the mother passes as immunity to her baby from many germs that could otherwise harm him.

Studies show that there is a much higher concentration of these antibodies in colostrum than there is in mature breast milk, which help protect the baby from dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Colostrum cleanses the gut by neutralising invading germs before they get the chance to make a person unwell. It is the first line of defence of the body against germs and pathogens. Scientists believe that the ingredients of colostrum help coat and protect the developing digestive system, laying the groundwork for future healthy development and proper digestion.

Colostrum is high in carbohydrates and protein and its mild laxative effect helps the baby pass his first stool and allows the clearing of excess blood waste products from their system and prevents jaundice or the yellowing of the skin which is common among babies.

The proteins in colostrum help maintain a healthy blood sugar level in babies particularly those whose mothers experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy. It has also the necessary ingredients for psychological development.

Colostrum will gradually give way to regular milk, which is thin and white, if the mother breastfeeds the baby early and often for 8 times or more if possible each 24 hours. To ensure that the baby receives the benefits of colostrum, it is of utmost importance that breastfeeding should be initiated in the first hour of birth.

Research also shows that exclusively breastfeeding lessens the likelihood that the child develop allergies, diabetes mellitus and other ailments in later life. Colostrum and breast milk therefore foster healthy mental and physical development for babies.#