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Thread: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

  1. #1
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    Default Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    Hi, it's the ever inquisitive Wendy writing with a thought or two that I had. I'm confused about foremilk and hindmilk. Here is a scenario:

    Let's say my DS nurses on my right breast for a while until he pulls himself away. (always finish the first breast first!) We could probably assume he had both foremilk and hindmilk, right? Well, if he then has a diaper change and wants to eat more, and I give him the left breast, ok? So let's say he only nurses for a minute or so on that breast, he then has more foremilk, right? Is that not a good thing? Especially since too much foremlik causes gas etc?

    Second question- if that same scenario, 2 hours later he wants to eat again and I give him my left breast again (he'd hardly had any milk from there, remember) will his nursing pick up where he left off (that is, my breast having the same amount of foremilk as when he left it and then he gets to the hindmilk) or does foremlik replenish and we start all over again?

    Please let me know, these are things I think about while nursing at 3am!

    Thanks!

    Wendy

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    you know, good question. how do we know they are getting enough hindmilk, ds is very gassy, but his weight gain is good so does that mean he is getting what he needs or more foremilk than needed?
    Melanie
    Proud Army Wife to James
    Loving Mommy to DS Gavin: March 16, 2006 and DSS Cody: Feb 13, 1998
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    Okay, I don't know all the specifics of this but here's what I know... I've read that even with nursing just a few minutes per breast that there is some amount of hindmilk mixed with the foremilk. It's just not as much as what would be there if they nursed for a really long time on that particular breast. As long as baby is gaining well, has normal poo's and isn't painfully gassy (some baby's are just gassy) then I wouldn't worry about it. But, if you're concerned that baby isn't getting enough hindmilk, try block feeding where you nurse from the same side for two or more feedings. I believe that this is supposed to ensure that baby is getting more hindmilk with each feed.

    Sorry, wish I knew all the details about how this works!! HTH!
    Amber
    Mommy to Bridget (12/20/05) and Brady (9/6/07)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    nak see I was under the impression (by a nurse at L&D) that it had to do w/ latch, if he was not on far enough he was not getting hindmilk
    Melanie
    Proud Army Wife to James
    Loving Mommy to DS Gavin: March 16, 2006 and DSS Cody: Feb 13, 1998
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    Well, that is also true...latch can definitely affect the amount of milk baby is receiving as well as the balance of milk...
    Amber
    Mommy to Bridget (12/20/05) and Brady (9/6/07)

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    This is my understanding: the breast makes breastmilk, and that breastmilk is produced with quite consistent proportions of fat, water, protein, etc.

    What turns breastmilk into foremilk and hindmilk is time. Think about milking a cow -- you get a bucket of milk, and what happens if that bucket of milk sits undisturbed for a couple of hours? The cream -- the fat -- separates out and rises to the top. This same separation process happens in the cow's udder (that's why dairy maids used to spend extra effort to "strip" the last of the milk out while milking -- it was the richest stuff). And the same thing happens in women's lactating breasts, too -- the fat, over time, separates out and sort of clings to the tissues inside the breast because, well, fat is sorta sticky that way.

    Different women's breasts have different storage capacities (which, BTW, does not correlate reliably to breast SIZE.) It's the breasts with more storage capacity that may be more prone to a lot of foremilk/hindmilk separation -- because the breasts with smaller storage capacity are probably producing more of the baby's milk right as the baby is drinking it, so the milk doesn't sit around in the breast long.

    OK, so separation over time is why babies need to nurse until they're satisfied on that first breast. When they first start nursing, they're getting mostly foremilk. When letdown happens, the alveoli way up in the breast tissue release more milk, and this apparently unsticks the fat globs from all those tissues and mixes the fat back into the new milk, which thus becomes the higher-fat hindmilk. But it may take a few minutes for that hindmilk to actually reach the baby. What's more, we know that higher-fat foods are what generally trigger our brains to feel satiated while eating -- so that's why we watch the baby, not the clock, and let him finish that first breast on his own.

    Now, for the second breast, if he takes it, yes, he may get mostly foremilk. But he's already got a bellyful of the richer hindmilk from the first breast, so it's not going to throw the balance off too drastically. Where we run into problems is when baby isn't getting ENOUGH hindmilk -- then he may have digestive troubles, not grow well, be constantly hungry etc. And the reason we tell moms to offer the second breast, in the early days and weeks, is not so much for the baby's sake, but more to ensure that both her breasts are getting adequate stimulation and frequent emptying. It seems that establishing a good milk supply is a lot easier to accomplish in the early postpartum weeks than it is further down the road, so it's kind of a critical time for mom to do a lot of nursing on both breasts.

    Confused yet? Let me throw one more thing in there. You may read about oversupply being the underlying cause of foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. I think what's going on with oversupply is that a mom can have such a large storage capacity and such ample milk production that the baby may nurse until his tummy is full and he's tired, without ever getting much hindmilk. So the baby comes off the breast, mom changes his diaper and offers the second breast, and he gets even more foremilk. Then with the next feeding the cycle repeats, so that the baby really is getting, over time, a real imbalance of foremilk and hindmilk. That's when we really see green poops and all sorts of unhappiness and troubles. And so what an oversupply mom needs to do is to down-regulate her milk supply, by stimulating LESS production, not more. She needs to stop offering both breasts every feeding. Maybe she needs to nurse on the same breast for 2 or 3 feedings in a row. As her milk supply diminishes to match her baby's demand, then things even out, he gets adequate hindmilk, and everyone is happy.

    --Rebecca

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    first sorry for hijacking the thread hun lol

    ok so basically as long as his poops are normal (yellow) and he is gaining weight, we are doing fine? also I wonder is he gaining too much? my mother keeps giving me grief saying I should not feed on cue, cause he'll be too fat (he is almost 12lbs, was 7lbs 6oz at birth, he was born March 16)

    and also, is it too early for him to be taking only one breast at each (or most) feedings? TIA
    Melanie
    Proud Army Wife to James
    Loving Mommy to DS Gavin: March 16, 2006 and DSS Cody: Feb 13, 1998
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    Quote Originally Posted by GavinsMommy
    also I wonder is he gaining too much? my mother keeps giving me grief saying I should not feed on cue, cause he'll be too fat (he is almost 12lbs, was 7lbs 6oz at birth, he was born March 16)
    I don't think a baby can gain too much. At least that's what my pediatrician told me. Baby weight gain is absolutely NOT linked to later obesity when they are older. Breastfed babies will stop when they are full, you can't overfeed the same way you can when bottlefeeding. Also, DS's weight gain will probably slow down within a few months. Babies usually show down their weight gain to 4-5 oz/week at about 4 months, although my DD slowed at about 2 months.

    Quote Originally Posted by GavinsMommy
    and also, is it too early for him to be taking only one breast at each (or most) feedings? TIA
    Not at all. My DD usually only took one breast too. It sounds like you are both doing great! Hang in there!
    Eva
    Mom to Alyssa (11/26/05)

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    "ok so basically as long as his poops are normal (yellow) and he is gaining weight, we are doing fine? also I wonder is he gaining too much? my mother keeps giving me grief saying I should not feed on cue, cause he'll be too fat (he is almost 12lbs, was 7lbs 6oz at birth, he was born March 16)"

    I learned a really handy phrase when my mom would start stuff like this under the auspices that she was just "concerned"--I very politely tell her that I didn't realize she had an MD behind her name. She doesn't like it, but it shuts her up, and FAST!!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Foremilk and Hindmilk questions

    thanks Eva & Justin's Mama lmao I dunno what would happen if I said that to my Mother, we've always been real close lol I just sort of let her talk, but then I started wondering about this one cause lil man IS quite chunky lol but I am glad I have the support I have here
    Melanie
    Proud Army Wife to James
    Loving Mommy to DS Gavin: March 16, 2006 and DSS Cody: Feb 13, 1998
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