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"I am eight months pregnant and my breasts have begun leaking. The doctor has told me that this is normal at the end of pregnancy and that the substance is called colostrum. What is colostrum and is this the same as the milk that I'll be feeding my new baby?"

The hormone changes of pregnancy stimulate development of the breast tissue beginning in the first trimester. As early as the second trimester the hormone prolactin stimulates milk producing cells  to produce colostrum a thin white to yellow colored fluid. Colostrum contains lactose (milk sugar), protein,  lactoferrin, and antibodies important for fighting and preventing infections.

After delivery of the placenta the progesterone levels in the mother's blood drops causing an increase in the production of milk. During the first three to five days after delivery the composition of milk begins to change with increased levels of α-lactalbumin, lactose, citrate, glucose, free phosphate, and calcium, and decreased levels of lactoferrin and antibodies. This transition to mature milk takes about two weeks.

1.Eglash A, Montgomery A, Wood J. Breastfeeding. Dis Mon. 2008 ;54:343-411.PMID:18489970

Created: 12/16/2008
Reviewed: Mark Curran, M.D.


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