Antenatal Expression of Colostrum

I’ve talked before about the so-called Cow’s Milk Hypothesis and the TRIGR study to look at prevention of type 1 diabetes.  I know that the jury is still out, but as I discussed, it’ still enough for me to want to exclusively breastfeed. And by exclusively breastfeed, I mean that I want to avoid all formula milk until at least 6 months of age. I know that breastfeeding may not work out for me. In which case I’ll have to make my peace with giving formula. But I really, really want to avoid the situation where I have to give formula within the first few hours of life. I’ll feel like I’ve not given myself a chance and if our child did develop diabetes in later life, I’d always wonder “what if?”

One of the potential complications for babies born to diabetic mothers is low blood sugar at birth. This is because the baby’s body is used to producing extra insulin to handle the higher sugar levels that exist as a consequence of their mother’s diabetes. Once the supply of extra sugar is gone when the umbilical cord is cut, this excess insulin causes low blood sugars. The protocol at most hospitals for these babies is regular monitoring of blood glucose levels at frequent intervals for at least the first few hours. If hypoglycaemia is present, the simple solution is to feed the baby.

The problem for me will be if I can’t feed the baby. Either because I simply can’t get the hang of it quickly enough. Or because I’m not there – perhaps due to complications at the birth, or the need for a general anaesthetic, or because the baby has to go to special care and I can’t get there straight away. So I want to do something to guard against the need to give formula milk in those circumstances, especially since discovering that low blood sugars for babies born to type 1 mums are the rule rather than the exception, even if you have excellent control both during pregnancy and during the delivery. So I want to try to make sure that even if I’m not there, my baby can have my colostrum instead of formula.

A bit of research has led me to some studies involving expressing and freezing colostrum before birth to have in the event of the mother being unable to feed. It seems to be fairly common practice in some countries and in some hospitals in the UK too.

Fortunately I’ve been leaking colostrum for about the last 6 weeks, and given how much I’m leaking, I can’t see a problem wit the actual collecting it part. The only slight problem I’m having at the moment is a fear that my hospital will think I’m a bit crazy and be unable to support me turning up with syringes of frozen colostrum. I’m totally determined to do what I feel to be the best for my baby though. So one way or another I’ll have to make it work.

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