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Milk Before Baby: All About Antenatal Colostrum Collection

pregnant belly and colostrum

As you prepare to welcome your new baby into the world, there are many things to consider and decisions to make. More and more parents are incorporating antenatal colostrum collecting, also known as colostrum harvesting, into their prenatal plans. Antenatal colostrum collection involves using hand expression during pregnancy to express drops of colostrum which you can freeze and have ready when your baby is born.

Colostrum is the very first milk you will start producing while pregnant, beginning around 16 weeks’ gestation. As small amounts of colostrum begin to accumulate in the milk ducts, you may begin to leak drops of it during your pregnancy. Colostrum is often referred to as liquid gold; it is thick and yellow, and full of all the nutrients and protective antibodies your little one needs to kickstart their immune system and give them the best start when they are born.

It can be very helpful for you and your baby to have colostrum already on hand when your baby arrives. Research shows that using colostrum collected antenatally significantly reduces the need for formula supplementation in the hospital. Babies born to diabetic moms, those with low birth weight, and babies with other complex health conditions can also benefit from receiving expressed colostrum at birth. In addition, starting hand expression before your baby arrives is a good way to support your breastfeeding goals. It will help you get comfortable and familiar with your breasts and helps stimulate milk production to establish your supply in those early postpartum days. Some moms also say that it gives them confidence and a sense of security knowing they have colostrum ready to feed right after birth.

Hand expression stimulates the breasts and can cause mild uterine contractions as well as bruising to breast tissue if not done correctly, so make sure to speak with your pregnancy care provider before starting. Generally, for a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, hand expression can begin around 37 weeks’ gestation, starting with about 5 minutes, 2-3 times a day. It is important to remember not to use a breast pump during this time. Colostrum is produced in very small quantities and the drops tend to get stuck in the pump collection bottles. A breast pump is also less comfortable than gentle hand expression during this time.

While you will only get small amounts, colostrum is highly nutritious and every drop counts! All you need are some needleless syringes and medicine cups. The easiest way is to express into the medicine cup and draw it up in the syringe. You will also need a way to label your expressed colostrum with your name, date and time of collection. Most hospitals will require having it labeled to avoid any mix ups.


Follow these steps for hand expression:


1.  Wash your hands with soap and water.

2.  Apply warm compresses and gently massage your breasts starting from the outside moving toward the nipple.

3.  Make a c-shape with your hand and hold your breast with your thumb above the areola, and your 4 fingers below. Make sure to keep your hand on the breast about two finger-widths away from the nipple.

4.  Gently press your thumb and fingers back against the chest wall, making sure you are not sliding your fingers along the skin.

5.  Compress your breast slowly, and then release. Repeat.

6.  Move fingers around the breast tissue to express different areas and then switch to the other side to repeat the steps.


You can also click here for a detailed video on hand expression.


PUSH Mama Care is here to support you every step of the way during your pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. Get in touch with a lactation consultant for personalized help and have all your breastfeeding questions answered!


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