There. I said it. Hindmilk is more of a concept, than an actual thing. There are not two different kinds of milk. There is no switch, at 15 minutes or 20 minutes into the feeding, where your milk changes over from foremilk to hindmilk.
What does happen? The fat content in your milk gradually increases as the feeding progresses. The milk that comes out first tends to be lower in fat. Towards the end of the feeding, your milk tends to be higher in fat. Your baby needs both!
If you have a:
Normal Milk Supply
I frequently hear moms tell me, “He has to feed for 20 minutes to get to the good stuff.” If you have a normal milk supply, and your baby is breastfeeding well, you don’t have to worry about the fat content in your milk. (It’s all good stuff!) Offer the first breast. Watch for signs that your baby is finished the first side. How do you know if she is finished?
• She may come off the breast on her own.
• She may start to slow down or fall asleep at the breast.
• The pauses between sucks may become longer than the suckling bursts.
Take her off, offer a burp, and then offer the other breast. Most of the time she’ll probably want both breasts, sometimes she’ll be satisfied with only one. Listen to your baby.
Low Milk Supply
Some mothers tell me that they are only offering one side because their baby is gaining poorly. They say, “I keep him on one breast per feeding so there will be more fat in the milk.” I can’t stress enough the importance of offering both breasts if you have a low milk supply, or if your baby is gaining poorly. It’s all about quantity of milk (not quality of milk). If your baby is gaining weight poorly, he probably needs more food. It’s as simple as this: if you have 1 oz. in each breast, it is better to give your baby 2 oz. of milk than 1 oz. of milk.
Oversupply of Milk
Ok, I’ll admit that when a mother has an oversupply, “hindmilk” imbalance may actually come into play. Suppose you have 6 oz. of milk in each breast. If your baby can only transfer 3 oz., she’ll never fully drain your breast. She will tend to drink the lower fat milk that comes out first. Lower fat milk is higher in lactose. An overabundance of lactose tends to make bellies feel bloated and uncomfortable. They tend to nurse frequently. The message from your baby’s stomach to her brain is: My belly hurts… I must be hungry again… and she cues to nurse again. Babies whose mothers have oversupply, typically gain at least 2 oz. per day.
In this instance, offering only one breast will allow your baby to get the more fatty milk that comes towards the end of a feeding. Offering only one breast is a plan for DECREASING milk supply. You are allowing one breast to remain unused for several hours, which causes that breast to make less milk for the next feeding. Again, my goal is to decrease milk supply.
I want to be very certain that the supply is overabundant before I start trying to decrease it. If you start an oversupply plan, and the milk supply is already low, we are in trouble. Unfortunately, the symptoms of oversupply can look similar to the symptoms of low supply. Before starting a plan to decrease milk supply, seek out the help of an IBCLC.
If you don’t have an oversupply… forget about “hindmilk.” There’s no such thing.