Selwyn & Christchurch

Antenatal Colostrum Harvesting: are there disadvantages?

Just because ‘everyone is doing it’ doesn’t mean that you need to.

There are only a few situations in which collecting colostrum before birth may be warranted, and most people don’t need to do it. Yes, babies feed a lot after they are born and most don’t need anything other than what your breasts are making for this age and stage.

The decision to harvest your colostrum antenatally should involve a conversation with your health professional who will discuss the evidence-based reasons for it, and provide you with information on how to collect it, store it, and more importantly, how to use it. They can also provide you with free equipment for collecting it.

But what if you do need some and didn’t collect any? You can still usually hand-express extra colostrum if you need it once your baby is born, alongside regularly feeding your baby at the breast.

While all breastmilk is beneficial, giving your baby antenatally harvested colostrum may mean that they spend less time at the breast, and this may impact on:

  • Milk supply and engorgement: if your baby can get colostrum elsewhere then this may reduce the volume of milk your body starts to make through reduced stimulation, or cause increased engorgement if the milk being produced is not regularly removed
  • Oxytocin levels: this hormone of love has a calming effect while also helping to contract your uterus after birth (which helps reduce excessive bleeding)
  • Antibodies: the antibodies will be from the time you collected the colostrum rather than always being the most current ones your body will be making in response to your baby’s needs