Although expressing colostrum during pregnancy isn't a new practice, it has become more commonly promoted by doctors and midwives.
Many care providers recommend women who have diabetes express and collect colostrum in the weeks before birth, ready for their newborn baby if needed.
Babies born to diabetic women are at higher risk of experiencing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) after birth. This can happen to women who have type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes.
A baby with hypoglycaemia will need to be supplemented and this is usually formula, as the mother's milk doesn't come in for a few days.
Pregnant Women Can Express Colostrum Safely
If a woman has a stockpile of colostrum she expressed antenatally, then this could be used as the supplementation rather than formula.
One concern about expressing colostrum during pregnancy has been the possibility of it kickstarting labour too early – especially among diabetic women who are already at increased risk of premature labour.
Research has previously shown a trend towards increased admission to special care nursery of babies whose mothers had expressed colostrum antenatally.
So, what were the results of this study?
Pregnant Low Risk Diabetic Women Can Safely Express Colostrum
In the study, 319 women were randomised to express colostrum antenatally and 316 were randomised to receive only standard care and not express colostrum during pregnancy.
The percentage of babies admitted to the special care nursery did not differ between groups. The researchers concluded there is no harm in advising low risk women with diabetes during pregnancy to express breastmilk twice per day for 10 minutes from 36 weeks onwards. So, this is good news.
What other results were found?
Increased Exclusive Breastmilk Feeding
The study also found there was a 21% increase of babies receiving only breastmilk in the first 24 hours following birth, if the mothers had expressed during pregnancy.
So, are there any possible downsides of expressing antenatally?
It’s Important To Know Amounts Of Colostrum May Differ
The group of women who expressed during pregnancy achieved an average amount of 5mL of colostrum. Yes, that's not a typo.
This means that 50% of women expressed a total of 5mL or less, and 505 expressed 5mL or more. Some women expressed 0mL!
It’s really important for women to be aware of this. Expressing very small (if any) amounts of colostrum during pregnancy is within the range of normal.
Many women may mistakenly think because they can't express greater amounts of colostrum, they may not be able to breastfeeding successfully.
What Occurs After Birth Is The Most Important
Also, what occurs after the birth of a baby is the most important factor in terms of breastfeeding outcomes. There are 7 Huge Benefits of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth which can help babies and mothers establish a good breastfeeding relationship. There is also plenty a mother can do after birth to help get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.