Something that breastfeeding mums seem to really worry about and a question I regularly get asked is – ‘Is my baby getting enough hind milk’.
Milk is all just milk. Your body does not make 2 kinds of milk. There is no switch that magically occurs after feeding for a set length of time which suddenly turns a tap on for hindmilk to be released.
As your milk sits in your breast, the fat globules stick together and stick to the walls of the alveoli and ducts. So when your baby starts to feed the milk is higher in water and carbohydrate and is lower in fat. This is how the milk production process works and is completely normal. This foremilk is sweet and thirst quenching and is designed to entice your baby to continue to feed as well as being needed for the incredible amount of brain development that is ongoing
Fat content plays a really important part in your baby’s brain development
Most mums will have a letdown within the first 1-2 minutes of their baby sucking. During this letdown your ducts will dilate in diameter and the muscle cells contract and squeeze the milk and the fat globules down the ducts. So contrary to common belief, your baby can start receiving fat content within a very short period of starting their feed. As your baby continues to feed, your milk increasingly gets fattier and fattier as these fat globules are moved down. So there is no exact point as to when hindmilk is suddenly released.
Fat content varies enormously throughout the day and from woman to woman. For example, in the morning, we tend to have a higher volume of milk that has a lower fat content and this can be noticeable as your breast will feel fuller. Towards the end of the day, we tend to have a lower volume of milk but which has a higher fat content and this can be why your breasts can feel less full which can sometimes worry mums.
An emptier breast has a higher fat content than a fuller breast so when your baby feeds more frequently they are getting milk that is much fattier. Some interesting facts that I came across that were shown in several studies is that:
- Baby boys tend to have more fat content in their milk to baby girls
- Women who have been breastfeeding for over a year tend to have more fat content in their milk
- Women who use massage during feeds or use breast compression have more fat content in their milk compared to this who don’t
So should mums be worried about fore milk and hind milk?
The simple answer is no. But many breastfeeding mums do worry and choose to change how they feed their babies because of it eg: keeping their baby’s on longer on one side to ‘try to give them more hindmilk’.
If you can trust the natural breastfeeding process, follow your baby’s cues as to when they are hungry and breastfeed on demand, then you do not need to worry about foremilk and hindmilk.
If your baby is latching well and feeding effectively at the breast, your milk will perfectly match what your baby needs and will provide your baby with exactly the amount of fat content they require based on their frequency of feeds and how long they feed for.
Your baby has the remarkable ability to completely regulate their own milk intake if you allow the natural breastfeeding process to take place. So trust this incredible process that has been designed by nature specifically for your baby
So based on what you have just read you can understand why there is no need to set a time around how long your baby should feed for as it simply does not make any physiological sense.
Every breastfeeding woman will be different. Each woman will store different amounts of milk in her breasts with an individual fat composition. Every baby will different. Some babies will be very efficient at the breast and may take what they need in 10 minutes and some will be a lot slower and may take 40 minutes to feed – both are completely normal. Time is not the important factor. What is important is that your baby is feeding effectively when they are at the breast – deep latch, effective sucking and effective transfer of milk.
Watch your baby, not the clock
Too many mums in those early weeks are so focused on their babies getting the ‘hindmilk’ that they feed their baby for longer periods on one side because they believe that this will help with satisfying their baby more and encourage their baby to sleep longer by providing them with more fat content and thus weight gain but in fact it can often create the opposite effect.
So when it comes to concerns about low or slow weight gain, a fairly standard rule exists and ‘Switch’ feeding where you switch sides more frequently, stimulating more milk production is a great basic go to rule. Staying on one breast in this case would cause a lower milk production. So changing the feeding pattern would help to get a mothers milk supply back on track quite quickly but you would need professional support from a lactation consultant to manage this.
Those first 6 weeks are so crucial for stimulating your milk production so make sure you get the support that you need during this time. From those initial days after birth at a hospital or birthing unit, your Midwife as she supports you postnatally or reach out for professional support from a Lactation Consultant like myself if you are concerned or are having any concerns or issues at all. It might be that you just need a bit of a confidence boost by having a full breastfeed observed and assessed.
Your breasts need a lot of stimulation to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements and demands. Sticking to one side for too long will lower your chances of exclusively feeding your baby.
It is the volume of milk that your baby takes that is the important factor when it comes to their growth, not the amount of fat
All the very best with your breastfeeding journey. If you would like some support or advice at any time please don’t hesitate to give me a call and we can have a chat.