Foremilk and hindmilk

Foremilk and hindmilk? – Transcript

I do frequently get asked about fore milk and hind milk, and there is this idea that there are two different types of milk in the breast. Many of you want to know how long it’s going to take your baby to get to that fattier milk before swapping to the second breast.

But studies are, in actual fact, revealing a slightly different picture. We certainly know that the volume of milk reduces as the feed progresses, (how breastfeeding works video)and at the end of every let down the volume is more reduced. Every time there’s a reduction in volume of milk there is more concentration of fat, and to complicate matters even further, we know that even from woman to woman, and from feed to feed, the concentration of fat can be different. This means that your baby (as opposed to a different baby), may take a different amount of time to fill up on higher fat within each feed – and so there is great variety.

We know that on average babies generally spend maybe between 10 to 30 minutes feeding on each breast, so even that varies from baby to baby – and as your baby feeds on one side, he will call down a number of letdowns of milk, and this may be anywhere between three to five. And at the end of each letdown, the concentration of fat is higher. So as long as your baby is actively swallowing, and listen out for swallowing. It’s better to listen than to observe movements of his jaw, for instance, let him feed for as long as he is actively feeding before swapping to the other side (breast).

Closeup of a newborn nursingNow it might just be that your baby happens to fall asleep (sleepy baby) very quickly, and sometimes at the end of the first letdown, when the volume of milk is lower and the fat concentration is higher, your baby might just fall asleep – still attached to the breast, but is not actively swallowing.

Certainly, if your baby is doing this many many times on many feeds then the use of breast compressions can be a valuable tool to, in effect, cause some manual letdowns of milk, and help your baby to stay on one side, and get as much fat as is needed.

So if you ARE using breast compressions, ensure that you compress the breast at different parts all of the way around the clock face of the breast before going on to the other side. In this way you will ensure that your baby gets what he needs. If you find that your baby is coming to the breast and then after the first letdown of milk, after he has swallowed that, he then bobs off the breast rather than falling asleep – he just loses interest because of the lack of flow – then use breast compressions in that situation too. Before he has had a chance to bob off, compress the breast – this will push milk down to him, and he will then carry on swallowing – and that is another way to keep him actively taking all of that milk and getting more of the fattier milk as well, as the feed progresses. And remember that as the feed becomes longer and longer the more  fat he will have accessed by the time he reaches the end of the feed.

And finally I would encourage you to look at the video relating to one breast or two, and this will give you a little bit more detail on the subject.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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