Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Foremilk and Hindmilk

The statement put to me by one of my mums was concerning her production of foremilk and hindmilk when breastfeeding. She had helped her child stay satisfied longer and put on more weight by letting the child feed longer on the breast to allow the 'hindmilk' to come in.
So my question was "how long does it take for the hindmilk to come in?"

Foremilk is the watery, high in lactose milk that is meant to come in first to satisfy the thirst of the child and provide the short term energy and help for brain development. Hindmilk is the more 'fatty' satisfying milk that allows the child to grow.

Apparently according to the La Leche League International webiste: there are no different types of breast milk production cells, they all produce the same type of milk, its the fat content of the milk that is provided that varies according to how long the milk has been collecting in the ducts and how much of the breast is drained at the time. They say that the watery foremilk comes first, leaving the fat cells sticking behind in the milk ducts. The longer the child sucks, the more amount of fat cells end up coming through along with the 'hindmilk'. They describe it as the appetizer (foremilk) and dessert (creamy hindmilk).

So the question remains: how long does it take for the hindmilk to come in? Apparently it depends from person to person, each mum provides the right amount of fat content in their milk to help their child grow and devlopment. It seems the two ways to tell are: seeing how quick your milk supply comes (if you are over producing) or whether the child is getting that 'drunkeness'/ coming off the breast volontarily.

If you are overproducing milk, the child with be coming off the breast quickly and choking and spluttering - this means that your milk is coming too quick for the child and will inevitably make the child take in a lot of foremilk - which mean lots of lactose and may create gassiness and crampings, green frothy stools and less satiation (the 'colicky' symptoms). There are numerous ways of counteracting this...see link:

But, to answer the question, the best way to tell is to stay on the same breast until the child unlatches volontarily and pulls the 'milk drunk' look. The child knows when they have had enough (cool hey?). If they wake back up quickly again after 5-10mins and still seem hungry - then go on the other breast. The routine of feeding 10 mins on each breast doesn't seem to work and is appearing to be counterproductive in terms of composition. One quick note: if the child never does come off the breast on it's own accord, something is going on with the latching or positioning.

HOWEVER, there appears to be also a 'let out' clause for this understanding. In the first week of breastfeeding it seems to be quite important to make sure that the child feeds from both breasts in one feed. The mother's body needs to be 'stimulated' in a way to help get the milk production off to a good start. Hey, in a way it makes sense that you are only producing colostrum in the beginning (no worrying about foremilk and hindmilk yet). Only when you get into the routine and the milk production goes full you need to start looking at getting the right amount of time of the breast.

A good summary: the baby should be finished with the first breast before being switched to the other side - thats how long it's 'child led'. These babas are smart!

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