Human colostrum is a vital first food tailored to assist the newborn’s transition to extrauterine life. In this Innovating Practice through Research and Evidence presentation, we explore three noteworthy studies related to components, oral administration and benefits of colostrum.
First, components of colostrum are discussed in overview with particular attention given to the role of colostral cytokines. There are many cytokines in human milk acting as cell-signaling proteins for intercellular communication. Davanzo et al identify for the first the presence of the cytokine TRAIL (or tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand) in human milk with extremely high concentrations found in human colostrum. After discussing proposed benefits of cytokines for infants, we review research by Rodriquez et al that examines the feasibility of administering small amounts of colostrum to ELBW NICU infants. Lastly the presentation progresses a step further, discussing a potential role of early colostrum administration a variable that might reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. As always, further research is needed in reaching absolute conclusions but the research thus far suggests early administration of colostrum has benefits extending beyond nutrition for human infants.