If you’re like me, you probably only heard people talking about foremilk and hindmilk after you had a baby. There is a ton of information online about these ‘kinds’ of milk, that you may end up more confused than helped.
In this article, we will be comparing foremilk vs. hindmilk, particularly as they relate to your baby’s nutrition. We will also look at a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance and how you can remedy it.
What Is Foremilk?
If you’ve ever stored breast milk in the fridge, you’ll have noticed that it can separate into two layers. There’s nothing wrong with the milk, you only need to shake it for the composition to change back to normal.
The watery milk that sits at the bottom is what is referred to as foremilk and the fatty top layer is the hindmilk. Foremilk is bluish in color, and low in fat and calories. It has a high level of lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. Your baby produces lactase to break down this sugar and make it more digestible.
Foremilk is the first milk your baby will drink when nursing and is great for quenching thirst. It provides your baby with energy and is crucial to their brain development as well as their central nervous system.
What Is Hindmilk?
Having looked at foremilk, you may now have an idea of what hindmilk is. Alveoli are the milk-producing cells in your breast. Once the milk is made, the watery milk flows faster through the ducts into the nipple.
The fatty milk usually remains in the alveoli or sticks to the duct walls and moves much slower towards the nipple. This is what is known as hindmilk. It is thicker, much darker in color, and has higher percentages of fat and calories. It promotes weight gain in your baby.
So where does this leave the debate on foremilk vs. hindmilk? Are they really different kinds of milk?
Absolutely not, it’s all breast milk and they are both needed. These terms are used to describe how the fat content in the milk increases as your breast is drained. Foremilk is what is initially available. Hindmilk is what comes towards the end of the breastfeeding session.
Regular feedings are important since the watery milk rushing to the front will mix with leftover (hindmilk) and provide a balanced composition to your baby. The longer you wait in between feeds, the more diluted the leftover milk becomes. This will mean that your baby will drink a whole lot of lactose-laden milk, which is not good.
What Is a Foremilk vs. Hindmilk Imbalance?
This situation is also known as lactose overload. High levels of fat in breast milk helps slow down the movement of milk in your baby’s gut. This allows the baby’s system enough time to digest it.
Since foremilk is low in fat, it rushes through the gut very fast. As such, your baby may not produce lactase fast enough to breakdown the sugar which will lead to fermentation.
An oversupply of milk, switching sides too soon, or removing the baby from the breast prematurely can result in an imbalance.
Does This Affect Your Baby?
Yes, it does. The fermentation in their gut can be extremely uncomfortable for your baby. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Excessive gas and bloating.
- Inconsolable crying, screaming, and sometimes refusing to breastfeed.
- Greenish, watery, frothy, and even explosive bowel movements that have an offensive smell.
- Frequently searching for your breast, feeding hungrily, and restlessly flailing their arms and legs.
- Bowel movements may look like pellets or be stringy in nature.
- The baby may pedal their legs, writhe, wriggle, and arch their body.
What Color Stool Is Considered Healthy?
Part of parenting includes observing your baby’s poop as their stool can serve as an indicator of their health status. Once your baby is born, they will pass stool that is referred to as meconium which is usually greenish-black in color.
Days later, they will transition into what will be their normal colored-stool as long as they are breastfed. This normal color varies from shades of yellow, brown, and sometimes green. You can check out all the different colors of stool here.
Are Leaky Breasts a Sign of Oversupply?
Not necessarily. The level of prolactin, the milk-making hormone, will be on the increase during the first couple of weeks after the birth of your baby. As a result, you may have an oversupply of milk including spraying milk as well as leaky breasts.
Additionally, your baby will also be in the process of learning how to nurse so they are likely to cough and splutter. Over time, your breasts will learn how much milk your little one needs and adjust accordingly.
Prolactin levels will start to decrease while milk production starts to follow a demand and supply schedule.
How Do You Know That You Have an Oversupply?
Some of the pumping include:
- Milk sprays.
- Shorter feeding sessions as your baby becomes full faster.
- The baby gulps milk, chokes, and splutters.
- Baby fusses and sometimes refuses to nurse.
- Your baby is gassy and passes green explosive stool as mentioned earlier.
- The baby may spit up lots of milk while being burped.
- Engorged breasts.
How to Fix a Foremilk vs. Hindmilk Imbalance
There are several ways to correct this imbalance. You can change your breastfeeding position and use those that work anti-gravity. The reclining position can be particularly helpful as it makes it an uphill task for the breast milk to flow.
Additionally, hand expressing or pumping some of the milk before a feeding session will remove the milk at the front of the breast. This will make room for a good combo of both the foremilk and hindmilk.
You can drink sage or thyme tea to help with oversupply or talk to your lactation consultant about possible ways to reduce oversupply.
We may use different terms to describe milk at the front of your breast and the one at the back but in the end, it is all breast milk. Both fore and hind milk contain important nutrients for your baby’s development. The key thing is to know how to balance the feeding. With the information we have provided, we hope you’ll now be able to do just that.