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Foremilk, Hindmilk - What's the Difference?

Getting too much knowledge about breastfeeding sometimes can be confusing and distressing for new moms. Discussions about foremilk and hindmilk make it sound like your breast tissues produce two distinct kinds of milk.

Certainly, there is a definite answer to this. You only make one kind of breastmilk.


How Is Milk Made?

During pregnancy, your breasts start getting ready to make milk. As milk-making tissues rapidly grow, you may notice your breasts become fuller and more tender.


After you have your baby, pregnancy hormones lower which then helps the lactation hormone, prolactin, to be released. Prolactin sends a message that tells your breasts to make milk. Both your hormones and your baby’s suckling cause your breasts to make milk. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you make.


When your baby suckles, another hormone, oxytocin, sends a message that tells the small muscles in your breast to contract. As a result, this muscle contraction moves the milk through the milk ducts. Therefore, this is called the let-down reflex. It releases the milk into your milk ducts so you can breastfeed your baby.


Colostrum vs Transition Milk vs Mature Milk

First of all, you produce colostrum towards the end of pregnancy until the first few days after delivery. During the next 10-14 days, when mature breast milk starts to replace colostrum, it is called transitional milk. Then, mature milk being produced in the second week after delivery.

What Is Preterm Milk? Milk produced by a woman who has delivered prematurely. It contains more protein, minerals, immunoglobulins, and lactoferrin than mature milk, making it more suited for the needs of the preterm baby.

During the mature milk production, the composition of your mature milk changes even during the length of a single feed. Hence comes the confusion of foremilk and hindmilk.


Mature Milk: Foremilk

As your breast milk passes through fine ducts in your breast to reach the nipple, some of the fats attached to the walls of the ducts. This causes the watery part of your milk which is high in lactose flow through the ducts and reaches the nipple first. This is known as ‘foremilk’.

  • It is watery

  • Contain low fat

  • High in lactose

  • Also, contain protein, vitamin, and mineral

Foremilk serves the purpose to quench the thirst of your baby.


Mature Milk: Hindmilk

As the feeding continues, more of these fat globules that cling to the wall of the ducts get dislodged and make its way to nipple opening later. Milk that is secreted at later part of the feeding which is richer, thicker and creamier known as hindmilk.

  • Much thick in consistency

  • Richer in fat

Hindmilk satisfies the hunger of your baby as well as supplies more energy required for the healthy growth of your baby.


Foremilk vs Hindmilk

Therefore, it is recommended to allow your baby to finish the first breast before offering the second so that your baby gets both watery part of foremilk as well as energy-rich hindmilk. It is difficult to tell how much foremilk and hindmilk your baby has received from the single length of a feed.


The better your baby drains your breast per feeding, the more hindmilk she/he has access to. Some babies can take just five minutes while others take 30-40 minutes to get the same amount.


There’s no magic number of minutes to tell when foremilk “switch” to hindmilk. The fat content increases gradually and naturally throughout the feeding.


For tips to increase breast milk supply: How to increase your breast milk supply?


What is foremilk-hindmilk imbalance (Lactose overload)

Some women produce an oversupply of breast milk. More milk means a higher chance that your baby can satisfy even before draining the breast down to the creamy hindmilk.


It is important to note that you are producing both foremilk and hindmilk during the oversupply. Just that your baby fill up his/her stomach with a large amount of foremilk.


As we learned earlier, foremilk contains a high amount of lactulose and hindmilk has a high amount of fat.


Lactulose is large molecules that are digested slowly in the baby’s stomach, while fat in hindmilk slows down the movement of the milk through the digestive system.


When a baby drinks more foremilk (high lactulose) and low amount of hindmilk (low fat), the milk will pass through the baby’s digestive system quickly and lactulose not digested properly.


This is known as foremilk/hindmilk imbalance or lactose overload.


Problems with foremilk/hindmilk imbalance

Babies with lactose overload can appear like they’re suffering from a digestive disorder:

  • They may have a lot of flatulence/gassiness (wind)

  • Green, foamy or frothy, explosive stools

  • Pain which will usually be noticeable with lots of screaming due to abdominal cramp

  • Increased fussiness

Tips to overcome foremilk/hindmilk imbalance

  • Try different positions: lying on your side or a laid back position might help your baby to manage faster-flowing milk much easily.

  • Better deep latching can help babies manage milk flow better.

  • Breastfeed from one breast as long as possible.

As long as your baby is breastfeeding effectively, you can let your baby decide how much milk she/he wants. So, just follow your baby’s cue.


How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?

  • Type of stool – As your milk changes, your baby’s poops will too. First few days, poops will be black and tarry. Then they’ll be greenish to yellowish (3-5days). Then they will become bright yellow, soft, and has a peculiar aromatic odor.

  • The baby passes urine 6-8 times a day.

  • Your baby seems happy after feedings, with relaxed hands and feet.

  • Your baby is growing and gaining weight.

  • Sleeps comfortably between feeds and at night.

Conclusion

In conclusion, foremilk and hindmilk are not different types of milk. They are produced in a different composition during the single length of a feed. As long as your baby satisfied with his/her feed and showing good sign of growth and development, you no need to worry much about these breastfeeding terminologies. Happy motherhood!!!


References:

  1. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/foremilk-and-hindmilk/

  2. https://www.sdbfc.com/blog/2012/2/6/foremilk-vs-hindmilk-the-unnecessary-controversy

  3. https://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

  4. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/

 

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