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Breast milk is generally known to have two components – foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the milk that comes at the start of breastfeeding, while hindmilk is the milk that comes at the end. Let’s understand more about it.
What Are Foremilk and Hindmilk?
The breast milk that the baby receives at the start of a breastfeeding session is known as the foremilk, which has more water content, is higher in volume, but has low fat content. As the breastfeeding goes on, the fatty content of the breast milk increases gradually, and the volume goes down. The breast milk towards the end of the breastfeeding session is lower in volume, but very high in fat content, and is known as the hindmilk. If you are thinking about foremilk vs. hindmilk, the major difference is the fat content of the milk.
The breasts only produce one type of milk, which has high fat content. The different types of milk are the result of the mechanics of milk release. The fat content of the milk gradually increases as the breastfeeding session progresses. When the milk is being produced in the breast, the fat globules present in the breast milk stick to each other and to the alveoli walls (where the milk is made). Milk gets collected in the breasts, and slowly moves out through the nipple, leaving behind more and more of the fat content in between the breastfeeding sessions.
What Is Foremilk-Hindmilk Imbalance?
If your breasts have more milk than your baby can comfortably consume, your supply will gradually go down over time to correlate to your baby’s actual breast milk needs. Some babies might get an overdose of foremilk, which is rich in lactose. This is known as a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance. Infants might also get foremilk-hindmilk imbalance if you have a healthy milk supply, but you take your baby away from the breast before he has finished feeding, or you switch sides too soon.
If you want to ensure that your baby has received hindmilk, it is important to let him decide the duration and frequency of nursing.
Confusion About the Green Nappies
Healthcare providers typically believe in the idea of sticking to one single breast for one feeding session (known as block-feeding), so that the baby can get more hindmilk. These healthcare providers (and mothers of this opinion) might observe the babies passing green stools. However, the common scant green nappy of your child not gaining weight is not the same as the abundant frothy green nappy of a child with an overload of lactose. Sticking to one breast may not be the solution for a baby suffering from green “starvation stools”. Check with your International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for your doubts, if you are unsure about what your child’s nappies mean, or whether block-feeding is a good thing for your child.
Temporary Lactose Intolerance
In these circumstances, the child might find it problematic to digest the copious amounts of lactose that is plentiful in the foremilk, causing lactose overload or temporary lactose intolerance. They might get uncomfortable and fussy, and have green, foamy, and frothy nappies. The sheer volume and high sugar content of milk generally mean that infants gain weight quite well with foremilk-hindmilk imbalance. However, it may be possible that some babies might not gain enough weight in this circumstance. It is advised to breastfeed your baby on one breast per feed or for a period of time, because this can be very beneficial with foremilk-hindmilk imbalance to make sure that babies intake a fine proportion of milk with higher fat concentration.
It doesn’t matter whether it is hindmilk or foremilk; all your baby needs is lots of milk to grow healthily. It is the quantity of breast milk that determines the baby’s health, rather than the fat content in a particular feed. So, don’t worry too much about the quantity of hindmilk that your baby is receiving.
Also Read: Content and Composition of Breast Milk