Have you wondered what all the fuss is about when hearing you should fully empty your breasts while feeding or pumping for your baby? Interested in learning why sometimes your breast milk looks more transparent and at other times has a creamy appearance? Wondering if there is anything you can do to help your baby gain weight faster?
Some of these answers can be found by understanding the difference between hindmilk and foremilk.
Hindmilk versus Foremilk
What’s the difference?
Hindmilk is the high-fat, high-calorie breast milk that your baby gets toward the end of a feeding. It’s richer, thicker, and creamier than foremilk, the breast milk that your baby gets when he/she first starts to breastfeed. Hindmilk satisfies your baby’s hunger and makes your baby feel full and sleepy. It also helps your baby feel fuller longer!
So, how can you tell whether you are expressing more hindmilk by fully emptying your breasts? You should be able to tell by the color of your breastmilk! The color of hindmilk is creamy white compared to the more transparent looking milk that comes out of your breast when you first begin to pump – meaning the more you empty, the more hindmilk you express, the creamier looking your milk will be. Fascinating, isn’t it?
How Much More Fat Does Hindmilk Contain?
But HOW much more fat is in your milk by fully emptying? Have you ever noticed that sometimes your milk looks more watery and more creamy at others, or that milk separates into a more fluid laye with a layer of fat on top? How thick or thin the fat layer is can indicate whether there’s more foremilk or hindmilk in the bottle.
As fascinating as this is, don’t fret too much over it! In most cases, you won’t need to take any great measures to track which bottle you reach for to feed your baby. Fat content in milk changes throughout the day. For example, evening foremilk can be much higher in fat than morning foremilk (because of a shorter stretch between nursing sessions, with less time for a large volume of milk to collect). The best thing you can do is make sure to fully empty as often as you can!
Getting Enough Hindmilk
How can you make sure your baby is getting enough hindmilk while feeding at the breast?
Great question! In the early days of breastfeeding, it can take some time for your breast milk to let-down, which is an important part of your baby getting enough breast milk. Do your best to not watch the clock; sit back, relax and allow your baby to breastfeed longer. This will allow your baby more time to empty your breasts and get to that higher calorie hindmilk. As your baby gets older, she may not need to breastfeed as long to get a full feeding of foremilk and hindmilk. You may find that your baby can nurse for less than 10 minutes and get all that they need.
Overall, your baby needs to get enough hindmilk to feel satisfied between feedings and to gain weight and grow. If your baby does not breastfeed long enough at each feeding, he may not get enough breast milk, and he certainly won’t get enough hindmilk.
What about expressing milk with more Hindmilk?
If you are pumping for your baby it is the same philosophy. Start out pumping for shorter times and increase gradually. You should also massage your breasts while you pump in order to enable your breasts to empty more completely. Massage has many more benefits which we will dig into another day, but for now, let’s stay focused on talking about getting to that fatty hindmilk!
Can an oversupply keep my baby from getting enough Hindmilk?
While an overabundant milk supply is a common issue that can prevent your baby from getting enough hindmilk – don’t worry, there is a way around it!. When you have an overabundant supply of breast milk, your baby may get a lot of foremilk and fill up before getting to the hindmilk. Using a breast pump and massage can help in this situation. You will be able to completely empty your breast, get to more of the hind milk, and increase the overall fat content in the milk that you feed your baby.
Hindmilk, Your Milk Supply and Preemies
Hindmilk for Babies Who Are Not Gaining Weight Well
You should always talk to your baby’s doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s weight. She will keep track of your baby’s growth and let you know if you need to take any special measures to help your baby gain more weight. If your breast milk supply is sufficient, you can ask your pediatrician about feeding your baby more hindmilk. You can do this by pumping for a minute or two before you begin to breastfeed. By pumping before you nurse, you will remove some of the foremilk and your baby will get more of the high-calorie, high-fat hindmilk. (moms with an oversupply who prefer feeding at the breast can try this method also!)
However, if your breast milk supply is low, you should not pump before a feeding. Instead, you want your baby to get as much breast milk as possible, so nurse your baby on both sides until both breasts are empty. Another tip to try is “triple feeding”. This involves nursing the baby until sated, switch to pumping to make sure your breasts are completely empty, and then feeding that milk you expressed to the baby.
If you pump (or hand express) after you breastfeed your baby, it provides extra stimulation and removes the last little bit of breast milk from your breasts. This provides a signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk and can help to increase your milk supply. The breast milk that is collected when you pump immediately after nursing is that high-fat, high-calorie hindmilk we have been talking about and makes an excellent supplement, should your baby need it.
Preterm Babies or Babies With Health Issues
Babies who are born prematurely or with certain health issues can benefit from hindmilk. If your baby is in the NICU, you can talk to the hospital staff about collecting and feeding your preemie hindmilk to help her gain weight and meet her increased nutritional needs.
How to Collect & Separate Hindmilk
To collect hindmilk for your preterm baby in the NICU, you should use a breast pump and separate the foremilk from the hindmilk as you pump.
- Begin pumping
When you begin pumping your breast milk, it will be thin and watery. Pump for about 2 minutes.
- Remove foremilk
Remove the collection container from the pump. This collection will contain foremilk. You can save this milk in a separate container or milk storage bag.
- Continue pumping
Place a new collection container on your breast pump and continue pumping until your breast is empty. This thicker, creamier breast milk that you get at the end of your pumping session is your hindmilk.
- Label collections
Mark you storage containers appropriately for foremilk and hindmilk.
- Hand-off the separated hindmilk to NICU staff
Give the container of your hindmilk to the hospital staff to use for your baby now, and store your foremilk in the freezer for the future.
Whether you have a preemie in the NICU, are trying to help your baby gain weight, or just want to give your little one the most nutritious milk, use the tips and tricks above to fully empty your breasts during each feeding or pumping session can help you get the most hindmilk possible.