When your baby is relying on you for nutrition, you definitely feel the pressure. You may be concerned that your milk isn’t “good enough” for your baby, especially if they are on the smaller side. Is it possible to actually make breastmilk fattier to help increase the calories that your baby is getting?
Yes and no. Your milk changes throughout the day, no matter what you do. There are certain factors, like the time since the last feed, that can significantly affect the fat levels of your milk, but there aren’t any magical foods or supplements to take that will change the amount of fat in your breastmilk. The type of diet you eat will change the type of fat in your breastmilk, so having a balanced diet is important.
Fat in Breastmilk
Breastmilk composition changes throughout the day and from person to person. On average, breastmilk provides somewhere between 13-35 calories per ounce. Note the huge range. Fat composition ranges from about 0.6-1.5 grams per ounce. The emptier the breast at a feeding, the higher the fat content.
Eating more or less fat as the parent doesn’t affect the fat content of breastmilk (1). One thing your diet can affect is the DHA levels in your breastmilk (2). DHA is incredibly useful for babies (and adults), so make sure to get enough of it in your diet. Eating more of it seems to increase the amount in your breastmilk.
Concern: Breastmilk is Watery
Everyone’s breastmilk looks different. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other. You may notice that sometimes your milk looks watery and other times it looks creamier. This is because your breastmilk isn’t just serving the purpose of calories, it’s also your baby’s source of hydration.
You may have heard the terms “foremilk” and “hindmilk.” For most parents, there’s no need to worry about the distinction. Foremilk is what you produce at the beginning of a feed. It’s thinner and more watery. It hydrates your baby. Hindmilk is fattier and helps to satiate your baby.
When you pump, make sure that you finish your letdown. If you stop pumping too early, it’s possible to miss out on some of that hindmilk. Everyone’s pumping experience is different as well, so there isn’t a set amount of time or a certain volume that you should be looking for. Watch for the milk output to slow down.
Tips to Make Breastmilk Fattier
The biggest way to make a difference in the fat levels of your milk are to adjust how often you’re removing milk. While your breast is never truly “empty”, breastmilk removed from an emptier breast will generally be fattier.
- Feed or pump more frequently: don’t give your breasts time to fill completely up. You can do a pumping session in between feeds as long as your milk has been established. Doing this too early can establish an oversupply (more milk than your baby can drink) which can lead to an increase in foremilk overall.
- Increase feeding or pumping time: this can ensure that your baby (or pump) are getting all the hindmilk at the end of a letdown.
- Pump off some foremilk before offering your baby the breast: this will give your baby more of the fatty hindmilk. Keep in mind that the purpose of foremilk is to provide your baby with hydration. They should be receiving foremilk throughout the day, so you shouldn’t do this at every feed.
- Check your latch: if your baby doesn’t feed effectively, they may not be removing milk effectively. This means they may not be getting all the hindmilk.
- Try breast massage: gently massage your breasts as you feed or pump. This will help the milk move through the ducts and may help remove more milk.
- Work with a lactation consultant: they can help identify any problems and help make sure that your pump parts fit and are working effectively.
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.