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Breast milk consists of nutrients that are essential for your baby’s development in the first few months. It provides the necessary amount of fat required for the growth and development of the baby. Therefore, a regular feeding schedule is a must. However, the amount of fat in breast milk varies throughout the day, which might raise concerns in some mothers. But, you need not worry about it as it is completely natural and will not affect your child’s health. Read this article for some more information on fat in breast milk. Let’s begin with why breast milk is important for your baby.
Why Is Breast Milk Important for Your Baby?
Breast milk is a rich source of healthy fats complex carbs, proteins, oligosaccharides, vitamins, and minerals which are absolutely essential for a growing baby. We have shared a little more information about the fat content in breast milk below. Further, colostrum, the 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?
As mentioned earlier, the fat content in breast milk varies through the day as it depends on the emptiness of the breast; the full the breast, the low the fat. We will talk about this a little more in details below. For now, refer the table below to know the average fat and calorie content and the different types of fat present in breast milk:
|Calorie & Fat Content of Human Milk|
|Energy||22 kcal/oz||13 – 35 kcal/oz|
|75 kcal/100 mL||45 – 119 kcal/100 mL|
|Fat (total lipids)||1.2 g/oz||0.6 – 1.5 g/oz|
|4.2 g/100 mL||2 – 5 g/100 mL|
|References: Hamosh 1991, p. 118; Jelliffe & Jelliffe 1978; Lawrence 1999, p. 108, 305, 738.|
What Are the Different Types of Fat Present in Breast Milk?
The fat content found in breastmilk can be classified into:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Omega-3 fatty acids
You might wonder why the fat content in breast milk varies throughout the day. Let’s look at some factors that influence the fat content in breast milk.
Factors That Influence Fat in Breast Milk
The factors given below could influence the fat content in breast milk:
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. Having said that, the fat content in breast milk will not be the same during each feed and will vary on when the last feed was given.
2. Frequency of Nursing Sessions
The fat content present in breast milk is proportional to the number of times you feed your baby. When you nurse your child faster than your breastmilk replenishes, your baby is more likely to get the hindmilk, which has comparatively more fat content than the foremilk.
3. Time of the Day
As mentioned earlier, the fat content in breast milk varies throughout the day. This is because the time of replenishment of breast milk differs in each mother’s case. Some have fuller breasts in the morning, while some, during other parts of the day. Keeping track of your own experiences is advisable, so you can decide the best time to feed your baby and provide.
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.
5. Baby Feeding Positions and Techniques
Baby feeding positions and techniques also play an important role here. Getting the right technique, feeding position and establishing a successful bond with the baby can help him feed frequently and longer. The baby would then be able to suck deeper, which allows him to get proper feeds beneficial for his health. A deep latch ensures maximum intake of milk, which can help the baby drink until hindmilk effectively.
Points to Remember About Fat in Breast Milk
Fat supports the development of the brain and nervous system. Here are some tips to increase the amount of fat in your breast milk:
1. Breastfeed with one breast or pump out the foremilk when feeding with both breasts.
It is important for mothers to breastfeed from both sides in each nursing session. The baby needs to be allowed to decide the nursing duration and frequency at each breast, so he effectively has foremilk and hindmilk from both sides. 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 reaches the nipples, your baby will be too full to drink any more breastmilk.
2. Massage your breasts.
Breast massages and breast compressions improve the flow of breast milk through the milk ducts. You can do this by holding your breast and squeezing it gently. With these compressions, the fatty portions of the milk move towards the nipples. Massage enables stimulation and letdown and frees up ducts for smooth flow.
3. Eat a balanced diet.
Fat content in breast milk is not dependent on the mother’s diet. A balanced diet with healthy fats can ensure the mother gets adequate nutrition. You may include enough protein in your diet as it helps in the synthesis of breast milk. The best sources of protein are eggs, nuts, milk, chicken, cheese, fish, etc. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can ask your lactation specialist for a protein supplement that compliments your current diet. Having a healthy balanced diet for the mother’s well-being will provide the nutrition required for the baby’s growth and development.
4. Increase the frequency of feeding sessions.
The often you nurse, the more your child is likely to get the fat-rich hindmilk. Establishing frequent feeding sessions might be difficult if your baby gets full sooner than you estimate. Therefore, keep track of the feeding sessions and diaper changes to know the time your little one is likely to get hungry.
5. Pump some breast milk out.
You can pump out some foremilk using a breast pump and allow the hindmilk to flow through during your child’s feeding sessions. Do not forget that foremilk is also essential for your baby’s growth and development. Therefore, ensure your child gets some of that, too.
6. Consult a lactation expert.
A lactation expert can help answer and resolve several questions/issues you may have had when trying to breastfeed your baby. Seek help as soon as possible to establish a breastfeeding relationship and overcome any challenges that hinder the child’s nutrition.
As explained, the importance of fat in your baby’s diet cannot be understated. With timely feeding sessions, you can ensure your baby’s growth and development is adequate. The fat content in breast milk is comparatively higher when the breasts are almost empty; therefore, let your newborn suckle on one breast until it is completely empty before switching.