In this Article
Breast milk consists of all the macro and micronutrients essential for the development of a baby, especially in the first few months. However, the concentration of fats in the breast milk varies throughout the day. Fats in the breast milk is important for your baby, hence you must know how to increase fats in the breast milk.
Why Is Breast Milk Fat So Important for Your Baby?
Breast milk is rich in fat content. In addition, it also has complex carbs, proteins, oligosaccharides, vitamins, and minerals which are absolutely essential for a growing baby. Further, colostrum, the watery yellow fluid produced by the breasts in the first few days after birth contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system of a newborn baby. It also supports the development and functioning of the baby’s gastrointestinal system.
What Is the Average Fat and Calorie Content in Breast Milk?
Below is a table displaying the fat content in the human breast milk:
|Calories||75 calories per 100 mL||50-120 calories per 100 mL|
|Fat||4.2 grams per 100 mL||2-5 grams per 100 mL|
|4% fat||2-10% fat|
Different Types of Fats in Breast Milk
There are a host of different fat types found in breastmilk. They include:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Omega-3 fatty acids
What Factors Affect Fat in Breast Milk
There are a few factors that can have an influence on the concentration of fat in breastmilk.
1. Amount of Milk in the Breasts
An empty breast is richer in fat than a full breast. This is because when you start nursing, the foremilk is the first to emerge, and is rich in proteins, water and so on, but low in fat. However, the hindmilk, which comes later, is much richer in fats.
2. Frequency Between Nursing Sessions
The fat content present in your breast milk is proportional to the number of times you feed your baby. This fact seems implausible, but it occurs because you are nursing your child faster than your breastmilk replenishes. This allows a higher portion of hindmilk to be retained in the breasts between feedings.
The time of the day affects the fat concentration of the breast milk and it also depends on an individual. Some women have fuller breasts in the morning, while others have fuller breast during the afternoon or evening. Keep a note of your own experiences so you can judge when best to feed your baby.
Although this is a commonly-held belief, adding more fats to your diet does not alter the fat content in breast milk. In fact, this misconception has no basis whatsoever. Nevertheless, if your diet is rich in healthy fats, it can influence the type of fats present in your breastmilk.
Tips to Increase Fat in Breast Milk
Fat is a crucial component of a baby’s diet, as it supports brain and nerve development, vitamin metabolism, and many other critical functions. How to get more fat in breastmilk? Here are some tips which can help you increase the amount of fats present in your breast milk:
1. Empty the Breasts
New mothers often feel that they should nurse their baby with both breasts each time, which is not really necessary. As the baby suckles, the fats in the milk get stuck to each other and adhere to the alveolar walls of the milk ducts. As the milk enters the nipples, the fatty hindmilk is left behind while the foremilk comes out. If at this point, you switch your baby to the other breast, he will only have consumed the foremilk from the first breast. And by the time the hindmilk of the second breast is reaching the nipples, your baby will be too full to drink anymore. The best solution, in this case, is to allow your baby to empty a single breast until he is completely sated. If he is still hungry or demands more, you can give him the other breast.
2. Employ Breast Compressions
Breast massages and breast compressions have been shown to improve the flow of breast milk through the milk ducts. Performing breast compressions, that is pressing downwards on your breasts while the baby is suckling can activate the ejection reflex, producing more breastmilk. The best method to do this is by encircling the breast with your hand, then squeezing it gently but firmly as if trying to extract your milk. With these motions, the fatty portions of the milk begin to move towards the nipples. This method is only successful if your baby continues to suckle during the process because this means that milk has been released. Compressions also provide relief from mastitis and blocked ducts.
3. Increase Dietary Protein
Although breast milk is naturally rich in protein, adding more protein in your daily meals can help increase the fat content in breast milk. This is because protein helps in the synthesis of breast milk, and therefore an increase in dietary fat for your newborn. The best sources of protein are from whole foods like eggs, nuts, milk, chicken, cheese, fish and so on. If you are strictly vegetarian or vegan, you can consult with your doctor for a protein supplement recommendation.
4. Eat Healthy Fats
Eating healthy fats may not increase breast milk fat content, but it will certainly improve the quality of fats that are being consumed by your baby. Foods like fish, eggs, seeds, olive oil, nuts, avocados and so on are great options as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats.
5. Increase the Frequency of Feeding Sessions
The more often you nurse, the more the fat-rich hindmilk will emerge at the beginning of the session. This is because the hindmilk is in the front due to frequent breastfeeding.
6. Learn to Pump
Using a breast pump can help increase the fat content in your breast milk. This is simply because you can empty your breasts of foremilk before feeding your baby so they get the hindmilk instead. However, please don’t depend solely on this method as foremilk too is very essential for your baby’s growth and development.
7. Separate Foremilk from Hindmilk
You can pump both your foremilk and hindmilk out and keep them separately. The best way to produce fattier breastmilk is by starting to pump, then collecting the milk that comes out into a clean vessel. You will notice a clear change in consistency when the foremilk transitions to the thicker hindmilk, at which point you can redirect the pump to a different container. This way you can control the amount of both foremilk and hindmilk consumed by your baby.
8. Consume Supplements
Natural health supplements are also believed to be effective when it comes to increasing the fat content of the breast milk. A popular one is sunflower lecithin, which is mostly used by women who have blocked ducts. Sunflower lecithin is believed to reduce the viscosity of the fats in breast milk, allowing it to flow better. This also allows hindmilk to emerge at the beginning of the nursing session.
When Is Low Fat Breast Milk Recommended
In extremely rare situations, it might actually help to reduce the amount of fat present in the breast milk. One of these is a medical condition known as chylothorax. This problem occurs when the lymph fluid from the digestive organs begins to concentrate in the lung cavities. This fluid, known as chyle, is rich in fats known as triglycerides. The most common method to reduce fat in the breast milk is by using centrifugation. Please remember never to attempt reducing the fat in your breast milk or have the baby follow a diet of any kind unless ordered by your doctor.
These eight tips are quite effective when it comes to increasing the fat content in your breast milk. As explained, the importance of fat in your baby’s diet cannot be understated. Finally, please remember that most of the fat in breast milk appears when the breasts are almost empty, so always let your newborn suckle on one breast until it is completely empty before switching.