The birth of a child is a miracle and a life-changing event. Fortunately, mothers don't have to worry about feeding the new family member when they breastfeed after the stressful birth. Because: In the first few days after birth, mothers produce the first food that babies eat, called colostrum. Colostrum differs again from “normal” breast milk and this first food plays an essential role for the infant’s health and early childhood development. Colostrum, often referred to as “first milk,” is an amazing biological potion that not only nourishes the baby in the first days of life, but also has a lasting impact on early childhood development and the immune system.
In this article, Part 6 of the Colostrum Series , we will take an in-depth look at the importance of colostrum ( what is it? ) for infants and understand why it is crucial for the immune system and growth of newborns. We would also like to address why mothers who cannot or do not want to breastfeed should use colostrum if necessary.
- The importance of colostrum for early childhood development
- The role of colostrum in strengthening the immune system of babies
- The importance of antibodies in colostrum for protection against infections
- The influence of growth factors in colostrum on infant growth and development
- The role of colostrum in supporting the innate immune system
- The difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding and why colostrum is important for breastfeeding mothers
- Tips for Promoting Colostrum Production in Breastfeeding Mothers
- Study results
First milk – what is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk produced by a woman (and by female mammals) after giving birth to a child. This milky substance is rich in nutrients, antibodies and growth factors that are available to the newborn in the first days of his life, immediately after birth.
Colostrum is not normal breast milk, but is only produced by the female mammary glands in the first few days, immediately after birth. Typically thicker and yellower than later breast milk, it is an essential source of nutrients and other bioactive substances that promote the health and development of the infant.
So what is colostrum made of? What is contained in this special first milk?
Composition of Colostrum – Nature’s Magic Potion
Colostrum is an impressive blend of bioactive compounds specifically tailored to the needs of the newborn.
This special milk is designed to prepare the baby, who is born with only its innate immune system, for life “outside” and to strengthen it.
We have summarized some of the most important components and ingredients of colostrum here:
1. Antibodies – To strengthen the immune system
Colostrum is rich in antibodies, particularly immunoglobulin A (IgA), which help the infant fight potential infections. Because a newborn has an immature immune system, these antibodies are crucial in protecting them from disease.
The human immune system can be divided into two parts: the innate and the adaptive immune system. Babies are born with their innate immune system, but the acquired immune system is not yet developed in them because they first come into contact with the outside world and have to “acquire” it.
2. Growth Factors – Babies grow quickly
Healthy babies grow a full 25 cm in their first year of life. Various growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), therefore play an important role in promoting the growth and healthy development of the infant.
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) supports the formation of tissues and organs, which is critical for the baby and early childhood development.
3. Nutrients – A healthy cocktail
Colostrum is a true cocktail, or rather mocktail, that contains essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that are essential for the growth and development of the baby.
Particularly relevant is the protein casein in colostrum, which is a good source of important amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that are essential for the growth and development of tissues, organs and muscles. In babies, especially during the first few months of life, adequate protein intake is crucial to support growth.
4. Leukocytes – An important component of the immune system
White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are another crucial component of colostrum. They support the infant's innate immune system and help fight pathogens.
The white blood cells recognize and fight pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi by phagocytizing (absorbing and digesting) or destroying them. The ability of leukocytes to respond rapidly to pathogens without requiring specific adaptation is a crucial aspect of the innate immune system.
The role of colostrum in the immune system
The immune defense is one of the most important systems in the human body, especially for newborns who are just developing their own immune system.
Colostrum plays a key role in strengthening and training the infant's immune system. We would now like to take a closer look at the extent to which colostrum is important for the immune system of babies and small children.
1. Protection against infections
Colostrum contains high concentrations of antibodies that provide the infant with immediate protection against infections. These antibodies bind to pathogens such as bacteria and viruses and block their effects on the baby's health.
2. Immunoglobulin A (IgA)
IgA is the predominant antibody in colostrum and plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of the newborn. It protects the mucous membranes of the intestines and respiratory tract, which is particularly important since most infections enter through these routes.
Immunoglobulins play a crucial role, especially for newborns who meet many new family members and friendships who naturally bring pathogens and bacteria with them. Because: the baby's immune system has to react to all the unknown bacteria and pathogens, which are of little importance to us adults because our acquired immune system already knows the pathogens.
3. Building the immune system
Colostrum not only helps in immediate defense against illness, but also supports the development of the infant's immune system. It “trains” the immune system of babies and young children by helping it recognize pathogens and react appropriately.
A gift from Mother Nature – What makes colostrum so special
Colostrum is a unique food that is specifically tailored to the needs of newborns.
Its unique composition and ability to strengthen the immune system and promote growth make it one of the most important substances for early childhood development.
1. Colostrum is a natural wonder
The fact that colostrum is naturally produced by mothers, or female mammals, shows the amazing capabilities of Mother Nature.
Evolution developed this amazing food to ensure the health and survival of humanity. It is remarkable how mothers produce this first milk to give their newborns the best start in life.
2. Long-term significance for the child
The importance of colostrum for early childhood development extends beyond the first weeks and months of life. It has been proven to have long-term effects on the child's health.
Studies have shown that children who were breastfed and given colostrum in the first few days after birth have a lower risk of various health problems later in life. These include chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and allergies.
Breastfeeding versus bottle feeding – colostrum as a helper for breastfeeding mothers
It is important to emphasize that colostrum promotes not only the health of the infant, but also a close bond between mother and child. Breastfeeding offers unique emotional benefits as it strengthens the mother-child relationship and builds trust.
In comparison, conventional infant formulas often lack many of the bioactive ingredients found in colostrum. While infant formula can provide the necessary nutrients, it cannot provide the same protective effects and beneficial effects on the immune system as colostrum.
However, breastfeeding can be very stressful and even painful for some women. There are many mothers who would like to breastfeed, but have physical problems with breastfeeding or do not produce enough milk in the first few days after birth.
Colostrum can be particularly interesting for these mothers as a supplementary food if they take it themselves to promote their milk production or offer it to their baby as bottle feed so that the baby does not have to go without the valuable colostrum.
Promoting breastfeeding and the production of colostrum is therefore also very important for mothers. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus shrink and can reduce the risk of bleeding after birth.
Colostrum tips for mothers – How to breastfeed
It is important for mothers to know how to promote colostrum production to support their baby's health.
Here are some practical tips that have helped many mothers:
1. Invest early
Putting the baby to the breast early after birth is crucial to stimulate colostrum production. The baby's sucking movements promote milk and colostrum production.
So if there is initially no milk or colostrum coming out of the breast, there is no reason to worry. The baby should still be put on. Many mothers only produce their first milk 2-3 days after the birth of the baby.
2. Skin contact promotes colostrum production
Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth has many benefits, including promoting breastfeeding and colostrum production. The newborn should therefore lie on the mother for as long as possible in order to promote a close bond.
3. Frequent latching to promote milk production
Frequently latching the baby promotes milk production. In the first few days, the child should be breastfed on demand, which is usually every 2-3 hours.
4. Mother's nutrition
The mother's diet also plays an important role in the quality of the colostrum. A balanced diet rich in nutrients is crucial to meeting the baby's needs and providing him with high-quality colostrum.
What can you do if you are unable to breastfeed yourself or want to continue to reap the benefits of colostrum after your mammary glands only produce regular breast milk?
Colostrum – Liquid Gold
Colostrum is an amazing gift from nature to newborns. It is rich in antibodies, growth factors, nutrients and other bioactive compounds that promote early childhood development.
Colostrum plays a crucial role in immune defense by protecting the infant from infections and training its immune system. In addition, it promotes the growth and development of the child.
In our world where daily challenges and environmental factors can threaten the health of infants, colostrum remains critically important. It is a natural and sustainable resource that gives children around the world a good start in life.
It is therefore important to raise awareness of the importance of colostrum and encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies to support their health and development. If breastfeeding is not going smoothly, or you do not want to or cannot breastfeed, colostrum can be considered as a supplementary food and can be a helpful and healthy supplement for you and your baby. Because: Colostrum can also promote your own milk production.
Colostrum is not just food; it is also love, protection and health in its purest form.
If you want to give colostrum to your baby or take it yourself as a mother, choose trustworthy and ethical suppliers, such as the Swiss company THECHANGE, who offer high-quality colostrum in capsule form. If the colostrum has been filtered cold, the valuable nutrients are retained almost without exception. This is the only way the nutrients, immune factors and antioxidants can develop their natural health potential.
You should also discuss feeding your child colostrum with a specialist beforehand. The information in this blog is for general educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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