So, you’ve probably heard mamas chatting about two kinds of breastmilk – foremilk vs. hindmilk.
But what exactly is the difference?
Basically, the milk you produce changes during a feed to give your baby exactly the nutrition they need when they need it.
Pretty neat, right?
Even so, we know from Peanut mamas that the idea of a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance is a common source of anxiety.
But don’t worry, mama, we’ve got you.
Here’s everything you need to know about foremilk vs. hindmilk with some helpful expert advice from Registered Toddler Dietitian and Nutritionist (RDN) Kacie Barnes.
In this article: 📝
- What is foremilk vs. hindmilk?
- How long does it take to get hindmilk?
- How do you know if baby is getting hindmilk?
- Is foremilk better than hindmilk?
- Is foremilk as nutritious as hindmilk?
- Why is my breast milk watery?
What is foremilk vs. hindmilk?
Foremilk is the milk your baby gets at the start of a breastfeeding session.
And hindmilk comes through at the end.
Simple as that.
You may have noticed that the milk when you start a breastfeeding session is waterier.
It’s lower in fat and higher in lactose (milk sugar).
Towards the end, it becomes creamier and richer.
Think of it a bit like a tap.
Just as warm water takes a while to come through, the fatty part of your milk also takes time to reach your nipple.
How long does it take to get hindmilk?
There’s no set amount of time for hindmilk to come through – so feel free to lose that timer, mama.
Your breasts don’t suddenly flip a switch to change between two types of milk. It’s a gradual transition.
And it may be different person to person,” furthers Barnes, no two people’s breast milk will look the exact same at all times.”
There can be color and fat content variations that change based on maternal diet, child needs, schedule, all sorts of factors.”
As your breasts produce milk, fat globules stick to each other and to your cell walls.
Milk collects in your breast in between feedings, moving slowly towards the nipple.
As it does so, it leaves more fatty parts at the back of your milk ducts.
The longer the gaps in your feeding schedule, the more foremilk builds up.
This means it takes slightly longer for your baby to get the higher-fat hindmilk.
How do you know if baby is getting hindmilk?
You can’t tell how much fatty milk your baby’s getting just from the length of a feed.
Some hungry tots take a full feed in just five minutes, while others take half an hour to get the same amount.
Try not to worry too much about time, and let your baby naturally finish feeding on one breast before swapping over.
“Watching baby’s cues is the most helpful way to get information,” says Barnes, “they’re usually pretty clear about when they’re done with a side (pulling away, acting frustrated, playing instead of latching).”
As long as your baby’s breastfeeding without any issues, let them decide how long a feed lasts – and they’ll get all the fatty hindmilk they need.
Is foremilk better than hindmilk?
Foremilk and hindmilk aren’t separate types of milk – they just refer to the start and end of a feeding.
So one isn’t “better” than the other.
In fact, your baby needs both!
What’s important is that everything’s in balance.
It is rare, but some mamas experience what’s called “lactose overload” (which used to be called foremilk-hindmilk imbalance).
If your baby’s getting too much lactose-rich foremilk and not enough fatty hindmilk, this can cause digestive problems.
Yep, we’re talking windy bums and unpleasant poops.
“This can happen if they only feed for a few minutes on each side consistently,” explains Barnes, “not always though, so don’t worry – some feeds are just short and that’s totally normal!”
Check in with your doctor if your baby is gassy or has green, foamy, explosive, or painful poops.
They’ll help you with the next steps.
Is foremilk as nutritious as hindmilk?
Both foremilk and hindmilk are important for your baby.
The milk you produce is tailor-made to nourish your little one with exactly what they need.
So in terms of nutrition, all breast milk is good.
While foremilk contains more lactose, hindmilk has more fat (meaning more calories) and more vitamins A and E.
For this reason, some neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) feed newborns just hindmilk at first, switching to a mix with foremilk later.
But for most babies, your body is giving them exactly the right stuff. You go, mama.
Why is my breast milk watery?
If you’re wondering how to fix watery breast milk, remember that breast milk is always waterier at the start of a feed than at the end.
This is completely natural.
But if watery breast milk is worrying you, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
They’ll explain what’s going on and possibly suggest adjustments to your breastfeeding routine so that you and your little one get the most from each session.
Whether it’s foremilk vs. hindmilk, bottle-milk, in-the-middle-milk, or tired-at-the-end-of-the-day milk – you can be confident your milk is doing the very best for your baby.
And you don’t have to do anything but show up!
Your body is working hard to create the perfect mix for your child.
You’ve got this. ❤️