What Is Colostrum? Nutrition, Benefits, and Downsides

Research suggests that bovine colostrum may strengthen your immune system, fight infections that cause diarrhea, and promote gut health (2, 3).

May Boost Immunity

Bovine colostrum may strengthen your immune system and help your body fight disease-causing agents.

The immune-boosting effects of colostrum are mostly due to its high concentration of the antibodies IgA and IgG. Antibodies are proteins that fight viruses and bacteria (1, 7).

Research shows that colostrum supplements may be particularly effective in boosting immunity in elite athletes.

One 12-week study in 35 adult distance runners found that taking a daily bovine colostrum supplement increased the amount of saliva IgA antibodies by 79%, compared to baseline levels (8).

The researchers suggested that higher saliva levels of IgA may strengthen immunity and enhance the body’s ability to fight upper respiratory tract infections (8).

Another study in 29 male cyclists observed that taking 10 grams of bovine colostrum a day for 5 weeks prevented a postexercise decrease in immune cells and reduced the risk of upper respiratory infection symptoms compared to a placebo (9).

Other studies have similarly linked bovine colostrum supplements with enhanced immune response, but more extensive research is needed (10).

May Prevent and Treat Diarrhea

The compounds in bovine colostrum — especially the variety of antibodies and the protein lactoferrin — may help prevent diarrhea associated with bacterial and viral infections (11, 12).

A study in 87 adults experiencing diarrhea associated with HIV found that taking 100 grams of bovine colostrum a day along with traditional anti-diarrheal medications significantly decreased stool frequency by 21% more than traditional medications alone (13).

What’s more, cows can be given immunizations against specific strains of bacteria to produce colostrum high in antibodies that can fight specific infections (14).

These types of bovine colostrum are considered hyperimmune and could be an effective way to treat certain infections in humans, such as those caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Shigella dysenteriae bacteria (14, 15, 16).

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For example, studies show that hyperimmune colostrum may prevent a type of diarrhea known as traveler’s diarrhea, which is typically caused by E. coli bacteria.

One study in 30 healthy adults found that those who took a daily dose of 1,200 mg of hyperimmune bovine colostrum containing antibodies that fight E. coli bacteria were 90% less likely to develop traveler’s diarrhea than those taking a placebo (17).

May Benefit Gut Health

Bovine colostrum may strengthen your gut and fight infections in the digestive tract.

Both animal and human studies show that bovine colostrum may stimulate the growth of intestinal cells, strengthen the gut wall, and prevent intestinal permeability, a condition that causes particles from your gut to leak to the rest of your body (18, 19, 20).

These beneficial effects are likely due to the lactoferrin and growth factors it contains (21, 22).

One study in 12 athletes who were susceptible to intestinal permeability due to heavy exercise found that taking 20 grams of bovine colostrum a day prevented 80% of the increase in intestinal permeability experienced by those who took a placebo (19).

Another study observed that colostrum enemas may be helpful in treating colitis, a condition characterized by inflammation of the inner lining of the colon.

A study in 14 adults with colitis who were taking traditional medications found that taking bovine colostrum enemas in addition to regular medications reduced symptoms more than medication alone (23).

The potential for bovine colostrum to reduce symptoms of colitis is supported by animal studies. However, more extensive research in humans is needed (24, 25).

— Update: 16-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article All About Colostrum and Why It’s Beneficial for Your Newborn from the website www.pampers.com for the keyword human colostrum benefits.

If you’ve heard the terms “first milk,” “pre-milk,” “early milk,” or “practice milk,” you may have wondered what they mean. They all refer to a form of breast milk called colostrum — a type of nutrient-rich milk that comes in before your regular breast milk.

Whether you’ve noticed colostrum leak onto your bra during pregnancy or you’re considering breastfeeding and want to know more, it’s helpful to understand what colostrum is, how long it lasts, and how much your newborn may need. Read on to find out all this, and more.

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What Is Colostrum?

Colostrum is a highly concentrated form of breast milk that contains immune-boosting properties for your newborn. It’s packed with protein, salts, antibodies, and protective properties, all of which are beneficial for your baby. When compared with regular breast milk, colostrum is higher in protein but lower in sugar, fat, and calories.

If you’re nursing your baby, the feeds you give your newborn in the first few days after she’s born would be of colostrum, before your regular breast milk starts flowing.

Colostrum Benefits

Breastfeeding moms may want to think of colostrum as their baby’s first meal — one that offers health benefits such as:

  • Helping to immunize your baby against harmful germs by coating his intestines, and helping to shield his immune system against germs

  • Providing some protection from inflammation and killing potentially harmful microorganisms

  • Having laxative properties that can help get meconium (your little one’s first stool) moving along, which can help lessen the chance of jaundice

  • Helping to prevent low blood sugar levels if your baby was born full term

  • Offering a nutritional boost to a baby born prematurely, as it can provide your preemie with extra nutrition.

What Does Colostrum Look Like?

Since it’s so concentrated, colostrum is thick and sticky. It may look orange, yellow, clear, or white in color.

Typically, it is yellowish because it contains beta-carotene (the same thing that makes carrots yellow), but if your colostrum is thinner and more watery, don’t worry — it’s normal for it to be a little different for every mom.

When Does Colostrum Come In?

An expectant mom’s breasts may be ready to produce colostrum as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy or later in the second trimester. So don’t be surprised if you see signs of leaking colostrum long before you’re due to give birth.

Leaking colostrum does not necessarily mean that labor is close. Although it may seem a little odd, it’s actually completely normal to leak a little breast milk during pregnancy.

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Conversely, some moms-to-be don’t notice any signs of colostrum leaking during pregnancy, but this doesn’t mean that colostrum production isn’t happening. Behind the scenes, your breasts are getting prepped for breastfeeding — just one more way your body is getting ready for motherhood.

If you are leaking colostrum, you might want to buy some disposable or reusable breast pads that line your bra. These help absorb the liquid and protect your clothing.

How Long Does Colostrum Last?

Your body will typically produce colostrum for several days after the birth of your baby before this early milk transitions into regular breast milk.

After the initial two to five days of colostrum production, your breasts will begin to increase in size and feel firmer. This indicates that your milk supply is increasing and has started to transition from colostrum to regular breast milk — a process that happens over a few weeks.

How Much Colostrum Does a Newborn Baby Need?

New moms may produce anywhere from 10 to 100 milliliters of colostrum per day. Typically, though, it’s around 30 milliliters or about an ounce a day, which is right around the amount that your baby needs. But don’t worry if you’re producing less than this amount — any amount is good for your baby. As your breasts transition into producing more milk than colostrum, your baby’s stomach will also expand to accept more milk.

For more on breastfeeding in general, check out these breastfeeding tips. And if you’re concerned about your milk supply, consult your healthcare provider for advice. You can also read this article on increasing breast milk production.

Colostrum is important in so many ways for your baby. It’s the perfect first meal for a newborn, fortifying her with antibodies for a beneficial jump-start in life.

While we’re on the important topic of feeding your baby, you might want to learn more interesting facts about breastfeeding as well as more about formula feeding.

Alongside all those feedings, you’re bound to have plenty of diaper changes. Download the Pampers Club app today and start earning rewards, like gift cards and cash back, for your diaper and wipes purchases.


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About the Author: Tung Chi