The consistency of breast milk keeps changing throughout every feeding. The first milk that comes out when your baby starts to breastfeed or when you start to pump is known as foremilk. Foremilk is usually compared to skim milk. This is because it is low in both calories and fat. However, its consistency is still enough to satisfy a hungry baby.
As a baby continues to nurse, the milk changes to hindmilk. Hindmilk is considered as whole milk. It’s also thick in texture, and the fat content is higher compared to foremilk. Hindmilk can be described as the dessert that’s enjoyed after a meal. Also, note that the fat content for every mother is different and varies greatly.
There are mums who have different fat contents in both their hindmilk and foremilk, while others don’t. Pumping is also another way that you can easily notice the difference between hindmilk and foremilk. Hindmilk, which is the fattier milk, will always rise to the top, especially if the milk has been stored in the refrigerator for some time.
While this is completely normal, it’s not uncommon to find most mothers worrying about the inability to produce enough fatty milk. This, is where most women worry about having a foremilk imbalance and whether it can hurt their baby. Below, you will discover how to know if you have a foremilk imbalance and what you can do to fix it.
What is a Foremilk Imbalance?
Foremilk or hindmilk imbalance happens when a baby feeds a lot and exclusively on foremilk and ends up not getting the hindmilk that is fattier when he is feeding. Foremilk or hindmilk imbalance is also known as oversupply. The result is that your baby will be ingesting too much lactose and less fat. And while the lactose amount found in breast milk tends to be the same throughout a given feeding session, truth is there is extra lactose in foremilk compared to hindmilk.
Foremilk imbalance can affect your baby’s ability to become satisfied regardless of the number of feedings as well as gaining weight. In some instances, it will also lead to losing stools, fussiness, additional gassiness, and colic-like symptoms. As such, most mums are always concerned whether their baby is getting enough hindmilk.
There are some signs that can assist you to know whether your baby has foremilk imbalance. These include:
- crying, showing signs of irritability and restlessness after a nursing session
- changes in the stool consistency such as foamy, green-colored or watery stools
- being fussy after breastfeeding
- short feedings that go for only five to 10 minutes
It’s not uncommon to find foremilk imbalance being diagnosed as lactose intolerant or a lactose allergy. While being allergic to lactose does exist, it is a very rare condition. Colic, milk protein allergy or acid reflux also have similar symptoms to foremilk imbalance. Nursing mothers can also experience some symptoms that can tell them whether they have foremilk imbalance.
Such symptoms include having breasts that tend to be overly full, recurring plugged ducts as well as a letdown that is very forceful.
How to Fix a Foremilk Imbalance
If you think your baby has foremilk imbalance, there are some steps that you can take to fix it. These steps include:
- ensure that your baby is latched properly when they want to breastfeed
- Refrain from changing from one breast to the other quickly when nursing your baby. Ensure that you feed your baby on one breast for at least 10 or more minutes before switching. Also, ensure that you don’t time your feedings but nurse your little one until they let down. Increasing the feeding length on each breast can aid in fixing foremilk imbalance
- nursing your baby when they first show signs that they are hungry instead of waiting for them to become very hungry and begin to aggressively suck on your breast which can lead to foremilk imbalance
- changing your nursing positions often, like lying on your side or leaning in a bit far when nursing your baby
- letting your little one take a small break when feeding especially when they sputter off your breast. You can drain the excess milk into a towel or piece of cloth
- make an effort of expressing some milk off your breasts before starting a feeding session to lessen the forceful milk ejection reflex
In case you notice that your baby isn’t gaining weight as should be, has difficulty feeding, and frequent diarrhea, you may need to talk to his or her pediatrician as these symptoms could be an indicator of an allergy.
Nursing mothers that experience foremilk imbalance should try and nurse their babies longer on one breast to ensure that they get the hindmilk before changing breasts. Expressing some milk before you begin a feeding session will also help ensure that your little one gets more calories and less lactose, therefore, keeping your baby satisfied for longer periods.
After attempting some of the techniques listed above to fix foremilk imbalance, you should be able to see a change like your baby being less fussy during a feeding session, as well as their stool starting to normalize. If, however, you don’t have an issue of foremilk imbalance, you don’t have to worry about the fatty contents of your milk.
As a nursing mum, ensure you let your little one feed until he or she falls off your breast. Take your feeding sessions as an opportunity to watch and learn their feeding cues. This, will help you know how best to fix a foremilk imbalance if you suspect that your baby is experiencing it. If your little one appears satisfied after every feeding, you most likely don’t need to worry about having an oversupply.
As such, you don’t have to get your baby to stay one breast longer than is needed. However, should you have any worries about your baby’s feedings and whether he or she is getting enough milk, you need to talk to a lactation consultant or your baby’s doctor.