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Colostrum is something mothers make before a baby is born and for the first few weeks after birth. A toddler would only get colostrum if you’re pregnant, since it’s designed for newborns you may wonder if there are benefits for them to have it or maybe even persuade them not to.
This article briefly explains what colostrum is and how colostrum can affect toddlers and the incoming newborn.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first breast milk a mother produces during pregnancy. Expectant mothers tend to start creating colostrum in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Colostrum’s primary role is to protect the newborn baby’s immature immune system. It is created early enough so that even premature babies can be breastfed from birth.
Colostrum has a yellowish color and tends to have a thicker consistency than regular milk. Colostrum is nutrient dense and colostrum provides a baby with its first supply of antibodies. Antibodies are created by the mother in order to protect her child from disease during vulnerable newborn stage as well as feed them fully from the smallest amounts.
As with normal breastmilk, colostrum is made specifically for the mother’s baby and no two are the same – one of the many reasons why breastfeeding really is beneficial.
After around 7 weeks, the colostrum is phased out and turns into the whitish milk we’re all familiar with. During colostrum’s phasing out process, colostrum will be present in a mother’s milk.
Colostrum is also sometimes referred to as beestings, first milk and liquid gold. The colostrum created by mammals for newborns has been used since ancient times for many treatments including: soothing upset stomachs, curing skin.
This brings us to the question about colostrum and toddlers. If you are pregnant and have a toddler can your toddler have colostrum without issues?
If you’re in the unique position where you’re in mid to late stage pregnancy and your colostrum has come with a toddler in tow, you might be wondering whether it should be given to your child. Any colostrum that isn’t taken in before new baby is born is simply absorbed back into the body and you will continue to make more. But would it be a waste to do that?
First and foremost, a healthy breastfeeding mother will always make enough for two children, sometimes more. Regular breastfeeding during pregnancy does not affect the milk production or the available milk supply.
The relationship between mother and child will produce colostrum in abundance. All day every day. This is the most important thing you can do for your child, after all and the human body has done this for thousands of years and before the invention of formula milk most mothers would probably be tandem nursing mothers.
Secondly, it’s not called ‘liquid gold’ for nothing, it contains all the antibodies and compounds your baby’s body needs for protection from infection. To protect the nursing older child and newborn from viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites (which is why breastfeeding can help prevent so many illnesses). It also provides more immune system stimulation than any other substance known to man! Even if mother doesn’t have a toddler as an extra mouth to feed she should still aim to pump whatever colostrum she can in those early days post birth in order that her child receives every possible advantage.
Although the new sibling is the one who will benefit the most, the colostrum will give your toddler an enormous health boost. Several mothers have noted how quickly a child may get over colds, how quickly rashes disappear and how energetic they are when they supplement themselves with the milk of the gods.
It isn’t surprising to see just how many previously breastfed or even never-breastfed toddlers are suddenly interested in colostrum and want to continue nursing, it is specifically catered to them (the genetics of the toddler and the incoming newborn are very similar), tastes great (like strawberries apparently) and makes them feel so good they just want more.
To conclude, colostrum is an astonishing achievement of motherhood and your toddler is very lucky to be able to have it a second time round and that mum is willing to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy and through all the hormonal changes. However, breastfeeding two is hard and although there are a lot of benefits for the toddler there are also drawbacks and you may just not want to re-start feeding all over again and potentially end up tandem nursing.
Should I start nursing my toddler when the colostrum comes in?
There are reasons on both sides of the argument about tandem nursing a newborn baby and an older child. At the end of the day it is always a personal choice – it’s your body and it’s up to you how to use it. But, you should keep in mind that the sooner you make a decision and stick with it the better as a toddler may struggle if left too late.
There’s a big difference as well between deliberately offering them colostrum vs letting them nurse if they are curious. If your colostrum milk comes in and they don’t notice then perhaps that’s a good thing.
Further away from weaning
Feeding your toddler colostrum when it comes in will extend the length of time before they are weaned off it. If you had no intention of weaning them off the breast then great, but if you had planned for them to be weaned off then nursing may move the the goalposts against your wishes.
They will want it all of the time and after the birth
Chances are, your toddler will get a taste for the colostrum and want to feed regularly from the moment colostrum comes in all the way to the birth and beyond to tandem nursing. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking “when the baby’s here I will stop it” but it’s just not that easy and can often make the toddler resenting the baby for stopping them getting something they love. This is not good for the bond. So it’s a good idea to have a think about this decision well in advance even if you’re still nursing now.
Feeling Touched Out
On the other hand feeding colostrum to an older child may make mum feel touched out because you may find a bigger, older child is a lot more to handle than when they were a baby and it can be quite uncomfortable if they wriggle around a lot. Feeling touched out is a lot more likely if it progresses to tandem nursing when after the birth.
Sore nipples and sore chest can be quite common, so order some cream.
Nursing and especially tandem nursing can be tiring both a toddler and a baby at the same time which may lead mum to feel like she needs more help with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, or even taking a break from breastfeeding altogether. There won’t be any room for lazy husbands here.
It is estimated that many mothers burn 500 calories while breastfeeding and 650 calories when tandem breastfeeding. That’s a big jump!
On top of this, the nutritional benefits of feeding your toddler colostrum outweigh many cons. But there are some diminishing returns as they will not get the same nutrients from the milk as an older child as they did when they were a baby.
Stronger bond between toddler and baby (when they arrive)
Tandem nursing has been observed as one of the best ways to strengthen the bond between a toddler and new baby and can kick start their life long relationship in the most magical and intimate way. This can’t be overstated, some mums have described seeing their toddler and baby hold hands as they tandem nurse. This could alleviate any anxiety about them not getting on.
So what should I do?
The answer depends on your individual circumstances but in general tandem nursing up until around 12 months old can help build that special bond for the whole family while also giving nutritional benefits at an important stage of development.
However, it’s not without its challenges such as the energy drain and feeling touched out and the constant energy you need to keep up the milk supply.
Should I carry on feeding the toddler colostrum when the baby is born?
If your toddler has been feeding on the colostrum right up until the birth then it’s probably best to not stop it immediately. This is because they may associate not being able to have it anymore with the baby, which can build resentment towards the baby from your toddler. This can make things really difficult for everyone.
If you are sure you don’t want to tandem feed then it’s best to phase it out well before the birth. You’ll still continue to make colostrum, so don’t worry. But if you’ve reached the point where the due date is very close or even if the baby is already here then on balance its best to start tandem nursing to find out how you feel about it.
If you don’t like it then gradually phase it out in a gentle way. Formula milk could be used as a bridge or even just cow’s milk, many mothers use formula milk while breastfeeding/nursing. Pumping and bottle feeding the breast milk can also be be considered to give your boobs and nipples a break and means you won’t need a baby bottle maker.
If you want to tandem feed and are enjoying it then better for everyone, just make sure to take care of yourself and that your partner helps you recover.
Will I make enough colostrum for my baby, when it’s born?
It’s a common myth that mothers don’t make enough milk for their children when tandem feeding. The human body is a wonderful organic machine and will always produce enough milk for all of the child’s needs as long as they get plenty of rest , eat well and each child only feeds from one breast.
But, for the first 7 weeks or so it will be colostrum and not whitish milk and it’s more likely that the milk will be catered for the baby and not the toddler. Considering the different size of stomachs, your toddler will likely have shorter sessions on the boob and will still want to eat solid foods in between.
Your baby will always have enough but your toddler won’t be able to be exclusively fed on colostrum or milk.
So, do the benefits of colostrum for a toddler outweighs the negatives?
On the whole, breastfeeding toddlers during pregnancy and beyond will benefit from receiving colostrum in several ways. It can help with development and strengthen bonds between a toddler and baby when they are born.
The only downside is that it’s not without its challenges like feeling touched out or tired but these factors depend on your individual circumstances. And of course there may be concerns about breastfeeding a toddler when there is a new baby in the house.
But on balance, colostrum benefits for toddlers outweigh any negatives and tandem feeding up until at least 4 months can help strengthen that special bond between them while also providing nutritional benefits which can’t be understated.