What is the difference between foremilk and hindmilk? How do different methods of breastfeeding affect your baby?

Our bodies have an amazing ability to produce just the right nutrition for our babies, in just the right amount, and in just the right consistency. The consistency of human milk can be described in three ways: colostrum, foremilk, and hindmilk.

Colostrum is the first milk that you produce for your baby, immediately after birth. This milk is clear, full of antibodies, and specialized nutrition.

Foremilk is produced at the beginning of each nursing session. It is thin and sweet, quenching your baby’s thirst and providing hydration. Because of foremilk, breastfed babies do not have a need for water. Think of foremilk as the “skim milk” of breastmilk.

I am not a fan of scheduled feeding. Breastfed babies get thirsty just like you and I. They satisfy that thirst through short nursing sessions, drinking only the foremilk. If your baby wants to nurse between regular feedings, it might be because he wants a little drink.

Hindmilk comes after the foremilk and is creamier because of it’s higher fat content. This is your baby’s “food” and how your baby fills his tummy for long periods of time. Think of it as the “whole milk” of breastmilk.

Because breastmilk is free-flowing, the switch from foremilk to hindmilk is a gradual process. Just imagine mixing a glass of skim milk with a glass of whole milk. You still have milk, just a different consistency with a unique nutritional value.

Foremilk hindmilk imbalance is caused when baby is getting too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. Symptoms that your baby is getting too much foremilk include fussiness, green frothy stools, gas, and excessive spit up.

This imbalance is caused by oversupply, an overabundance of foremilk, or certain feeding methods (such as switching sides too often or too soon.) In order to avoid foremilk hindmilk imbalance, you should allow your baby to empty your breast before switching sides.

If you’re currently dealing with foremilk hindmilk imbalance, try feeding your baby on only one side per feeding. You may even try feeding on only one side for several hours (6-10) to regulate your body’s foremilk to hindmilk production.

Pumping
If you are pumping, you may have noticed the difference between the foremilk and the hindmilk. When you first start pumping, it can look very light and watery and gradually become a richer color and consistency. Remember to empty one or both breasts during a pumping session so that every bottle has a good mixture of both foremilk and hindmilk.

creative commons photo by alberth2

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Vanessa Pruitt is the founder of Natural Family Today. She helps people take one step at a time toward a happier, healthier life. Learn more...
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