One of the most popular breastfeeding topics amongst breastfeeding mums usually revolves around hindmilk and foremilk. In fact, some mums even obsess on whether their baby gets satisfied at all, especially if they notice that what they are producing is a lot more foremilk and less of hindmilk.
While knowing all about breastfeeding can help you make the right nursing choices for you and your little one, sometimes reading a lot about it can add a lot of stress and unnecessary pressure to a new mum. Why? Because all breastmilk, regardless of whether you just started nursing or are 30 minutes into nursing, contains both hindmilk and foremilk.
Discussions about hindmilk and foremilk make it feel as though mothers produce two types of milk, which isn’t the case. Foremilk is the milk that your baby first feeds on at the beginning of a breastfeeding session and is low in fats and calories. Hindmilk, on the other hand, is the much thicker and fattier milk.
As mentioned, nursing mothers only make one type of milk. However, the release mechanisms of the milk is what makes it sound as if your body produces two types of milk. Before the milk reaches the nipple, it passes through fine ducts in the breast. When a mum sets out to breastfeed, some of the fats start to stick around the alveoli. As feeding progresses, the fat starts to pass through the ducts with the rest of your milk.
No one knows the exact time that foremilk switches to hindmilk. However, the fattier content starts increasing naturally and gradually as feeding continues.
Difference Between Hindmilk and Foremilk
Other than the fact that hindmilk is a lot fattier, creamier, thicker, and contains the right number of calories, there really is no other difference between the two. In fact, foremilk and hindmilk are just but terms that are used to refer to the milk at different stages of feeding. Hindmilk is referred to as the milk that’s produced at the end of a feeding, while foremilk is milk produced at the start of a feed.
The change between foremilk and hindmilk is very gradual. In fact, a previous research noted that the emptier the breast, the higher the fat content. When a baby starts nursing and triggers the milk ejection reflex, the milk gets squeezed down to the ducts until the baby can swallow it. During letdown, milk production is a bit slow, but the flow is a lot faster. Every feed has a different letdown even though most mums will only feel the first one.
As the breast begins to empty, the fat contents start to dislodge and go down the ducts. If your baby continues feeding, they will now be able to get the fattier milk. This, of course, means that the fat content in the milk slowly increases as feeding continues. A good example of this analogy is to think of a hot water faucet. When you switch your hot water faucet on, the first water that comes off the shower or tap is usually cold. As the water is let to run, it starts getting warmer and warmer. This is the same thing that happens to breastmilk when you begin a nursing session.
Hindmilk or Foremilk, which one is Better?
Although foremilk doesn’t have enough fats and calories, it doesn’t mean it’s not suitable to ideal for your baby’s consumption. If anything, it also has some few fats in it. Hindmilk, however, is the best given that your baby will be able to get fuller quickly and stay that way a little longer than if they just fed on foremilk only. There are certain measures that you can put in place to ensure your little one gets enough hindmilk.
To begin with, ensure you breastfeed your baby for 10 to 15 minutes on each breast before switching. In fact, you are better off feeding your little one on demand instead of using a schedule. If you let your baby breastfeed for long, you will be giving them ample time to completely empty your breasts and get to the hindmilk.
As mentioned, for your baby to be satisfied and stay fuller for long between feeds as well as grown and gain weight, it’s important that they do get enough hindmilk. Babies who don’t nurse for long at every feeding, don’t usually get enough hindmilk. Besides, if you have an oversupply of breast milk, that simply means that your little one will get lots of foremilk and get full before they can even get to the hindmilk.
There are certain symptoms that you can use to know whether your baby is only getting too much foremilk as compared to hindmilk. Such symptoms include gassiness, green-colored stool that is loose, colic-like symptoms, abdominal pain, and crying. In case you notice your baby showing signs of excess foremilk, try having them breastfeed on one breast for each feeding session to prevent foremilk imbalance.
Hindmilk for Premature Babies and Babies Who Aren’t Gaining Weight
Babies, just like adults, need the right balance of minerals and vitamins in their food. Because babies rely on breast milk, it’s important that as a mother, you ensure that you are doing everything possible for your little one to get the hindmilk. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, the first thing to do is to talk to your lactation specialist or your baby’s doctor.
If your baby isn’t gaining weight and you have low milk supply, don’t express any milk to get rid of the foremilk but instead let him or her breastfeed from both breasts until they are empty. Only switch them from one breast to the other when you feel one is empty. Because hindmilk is rich in fats and calories, it can help premature babies gain weight and also help babies born with different kinds of health issues.
You can easily separate both hindmilk and foremilk after you are done expressing milk. Always remember to consult your baby’s doctor or your lactation specialist.