Once of the recent concerns breastfeeding mamas near and far worry about is ‘Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance’

Moms are often misguided by their family, friends , sometimes even by doctors that they are told to stick to a strict schedule instead of responding to their baby’s cue. The result is a frustrated mom and a unhappy baby.

Many moms think that foremilk and hindmilk are two different kind of milks that their body produces. Somehow it has gotten into the mind of nursing mama that hindmilk is the good milk and they need to increase the hindmilk production. This is just a myth.

I hope to clear some air around this through  this post and bring nursing mothers some relief.

What is Foremilk?

Foremilk is the milk that your baby gets at the beginning of the nursing session. It generally contains more lactose and carbohydrates. It is more watery in composition when compared to the hindmilk. The thinner foremilk quenches thirst and is vital for baby’s brain development.

What is Hindmilk?

Hindmilk is the milk that comes during the end of the nursing session. Hindmilk is thicker and rich in fats. Hindmilk makes baby feel full and calms hunger.

Foremilk vs Hindmilk Difference?

It is essential to understand the difference in foremilk and hindmilk so that we don’t spread any false information to breastfeeding mothers. Nursing is already cumbersome, and we don’t need to add any more stress to nursing mamas.

It is true that the fat composition of foremilk and hindmilk is different, and the latter is more abundant in fat. But that doesn’t mean that one milk is better than the another. In fact, contrary to the popular belief, foremilk and hindmilk are not two different types of milk.

Your breasts don’t produce two different types of milk.¬† When is breastmilk is produced in alveoli ( breast cells), the fat molecules tend to stick to the walls of the alveoli. As the breastmilk moves towards the nipples, the fats get stuck at the milk ducts, and less fatty milk fills the front of the breasts.

The longer the time between the feeding, the less fatty the foremilk will be.

How Long To Get to Hindmilk?

Another common question nursing moms ask is How long should they feed till they the baby gets the hindmilk. There is no definite answer to this question. There isn’t any automatic switch in your breasts that turns the hindmilk tap on after a particular time.

The transition from foremilk and hindmilk is gradual and depend on so many factors – the breast size, baby’s sucking pattern, the time between the feedings,etc.,

What is Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance?

However, in certain situations, babies happen to get more foremilk than the fatty hindmilk, and when that happens, it is called foremilk-hindmilk imbalance.

There are certain times when this happens; usually, the imbalance is temporary, and the body will adjust milk production as per the drinking patterns of the baby

In some cases, when the problem is consistent, mothers need to tweak their pumping or nursing style to tackle this situation.

Foremilk Hindmik Imbalance signs:

If you are worried if your baby is getting more foremilk and not getting any hindmilk, check for these signs.

1.Green Poop

There are good bacteria in the stomach that breaks down breastmilk. Adequate fat in the milk helps slows down the digestion process to ensure all the milk is broken down. When baby intakes a lot of foremilk it can pass through their little tummy fast without going without being broken down. You can see green frothy poop as a result.

Green poop once in a while can be due to a lot of reasons like viruses, or something ‘greeny’ the mother ate. Random green poop in an otherwise healthy baby can be ignored. But consistently green poop can be a sign of an underlying problem and should be discussed with your doctor.

2.Breasts Don’t Feel Empty:

If your breasts don’t feel like they are empty after a feeding, then it could be because your baby needs some more time to finish draining the breasts.

3. Fussy Baby:

If your baby is still fussy after a nursing session and seems hungry, maybe he needs to be on the breasts longer. Every baby is very different, and each has their own breastfeeding style. My son was a quick breastfeeder, he would be done with a breast in five minutes and needed the another.

But my daughter was completely different ad she would stay at least 20 minutes on a single breast, and there were times that my breastfeeding sessions would last for 40 minutes.

Bottom line is don’t rush babies or stick to a clock. If your baby is getting the milk from one breast and happy nursing at one don’t abruptly change breasts. But if you feel like your baby is finished with a breast and needs more milk then put them on the other.

4.Colic Like Symptoms:

Since the excess foremilk doesn’t get properly digested milk, the baby might show colic-like symptoms such as gas and pain while the food is moving through the intestines.

Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance Causes:

As I mentioned earlier, there will be temporary fore milk hind milk imbalance that can happen throughout the nursing cycle.

When my son started sleeping through the night, the sudden longer interval between feeds made my breasts engorged. My son was taking in too much foremilk as my breasts were full. The imbalance lasted a couple of days until my body was able to regulate the milk production.

So temporary situations of foremilk hindmilk imbalance is not to worry about and will go away when your body regulates milk supply as per the baby’s needs.But if this is a constant battle, then you may need to dig a little deeper and fix why its happening.

1.OverSupply:

If you have noticed that your boob sprays milk and your baby is almost choking on taking all the breastmilk, then you might have some oversupply issues. In this case, there is too much milk for the baby, and the baby gets full with the foremilk and never gets to taste the hindmilk. The result is your baby is gassy fussy and colicky.

2.Bad Latch:

Bad latch is a root cause of so many breastfeeding problems, – sore nipples, low supply and also can cause imbalance. Hindmilk flows in when the baby starts vigorously empties your breasts, and a good latch is necessary to draw the fat from the sides of the breast tissue.

How To Correct Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance :

While Breastfeeding:

There are a few things to can do to correct the imbalance while breastfeeding your baby.

Try Different Nursing Positions:

Some babies need some help to empty the breasts whey they are wee. I struggled with my daughter as she struggled to latch on and drain my breasts. Cradle and football hold helped us a lot.

Stop Switching Breasts Often:

Many moms get into nursing issues when trying to follow the advice of friends and health care professionals and end up ignoring baby’s cues completely. Trust your instincts, and your baby will tell you what they need.

When I went for my first postpartum checkup, my doctor told me that I should only keep my baby 15 minutes on each breast and switch to the next breasts and be done. I swear I would have messed up my nursing relationship if I had followed her advice.

Keep the baby on the breast as long as they are actively sucking and switch breasts only when they are finished.

Breast Compression:

Babies tend to fall asleep while nursing. You can’t really blame them because nursing is very soothing to them. In such cases,when you think your baby fell asleep without getting the hindmilk, try breast compression, that will encourage them to suck more.

While Pumping:

If you are exclusively pumping mama, you must have noticed your pumped milk separating to form two layers when stored in a bottle.Fat seperates in stored milk, and the fatty hindmilk rises to the top leaving lighter foremilk in the bottom.

Some moms get concerned when they see a larger ratio of foremilk (lighter milk) to hindmilk and suspect that their babies aren’t getting enough hindmilk. Try these tips to fix the imbalance while pumping.

Pump Longer:

If you already pump for 10 minutes a side, try increasing the pumping time. This will ensure that you are getting all the hindmilk out. Also try breast compression while pumping to increase milk flow.

Proper Warming Milk:

Just like how fat gets stuck to the side of the breast tissues, fat also gets stuck to the sides of the bottle when pumped and stored. You should make sure to properly warm breastmilk so that fat gets mixed with the milk and gets into your baby’s tummy.

Dump an Ounce of Foremilk:

If you are dealing with oversupply problems, lactation consultants may advise you to dump the first ounce (or so) of the foremilk you get while pumping. By removing the excess foremilk, you can maintain a favorable ratio of hindmilk and foremilk from a pumping session. Please don’t dump the breastmilk though; you can use the extra milk for drawing a bath, in a smoothie or find many other uses.

Let’s Wrap Up:

Foremilk hindmilk imbalance, if at all it occurs, are generally short lived. You don’t have to keep a record on how much foremilk or hindmilk your baby gets per nursing session. If you are listening to your baby’s signals and following his cues, he will get the required amount of both the milks.

If you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough fatty milk, check his weight gain and diaper outputs. Feel free to discuss your concerns with a lactation consultant or your doctor.