Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance

Foremilk hindmilk imbalance is one of the most common breastfeeding problems, and usually occurs due to incorrect information and misconceptions about how breastfeeding works.

Colostrum is produced for only a few days before and after giving birth. It is the clear liquid that is very rich in nutrients and antibodies.

Read more about colostrum and its benefits.

What is Foremilk?

Foremilk is the milk that lies in the front of your breast's milk producing cells (alveoli); this is the first milk that your little one drinks during a breastfeeding session. This milk is watery when compared to hind milk and is usually bluish in color. Foremilk is also abundant in carbohydrates, protein and vitamins.

What is Hindmilk?

Hindmilk is the milk further back in your breast's milk producing cells (alveoli). It is calorie loaded and has a much higher fat percentage. It also looks thicker and darker in color.

So, Why this Difference in Milk?

When the milk is produced, it passes the alveoli (milk producing cells). Most of the fat in the milk then sticks to the back and sides of the alveoli (the fatty hindmilk), while the rest of the milk collects in the front of the alveoli (less fatty foremilk).

So, the fat gets stuck further back in the breast's alveoli, and this is what causes the large difference between the milk at the beginning of a feed and the milk at the end. The fat content in the milk increases gradually during a feed as the fat globules are released from the alveoli.

The longer Mom waits between feedings, the more foremilk is allowed to collect and the longer it will take before Baby receives the hindmilk.

The high lactose level found in the foremilk is important for energy and brain development and also quenches Baby’s thirst. The hind milk is important for growth and helps Baby feel full.

Foremilk hindmilk imbalance

~ Interesting Fact ~

The less breast milk a Mom has in her breast, the higher the fat content will be.

What is a Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance?

This happens when a mother allows her baby to breastfeed for only for a few minutes on each side. This results in her baby filling up exclusively on foremilk which provides an oversupply of lactose. This, in turn, causes gassiness and foamy green, explosive stools.

It is so important that Mom allows Baby to drink from one breast until it "seems" empty (breasts are never completely empty because they are constantly producing milk) before offering the other breast. This will ensure that Baby receives the foremilk and hindmilk. The hindmilk will fill Baby more and decrease colic symptoms and explosive stools.

Sometimes Mom might have an oversupply of foremilk which will also result in a foremilk imbalance problem. What causes this? Not allowing Baby to finish one breast at a time.

How can you fix this? Do not allow Baby to comfort feed if you already have an oversupply of milk (flutter sucking usually indicates comfort sucking).

Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance Symptoms

* Green frothy explosive stools.

* Baby spits up a lot.

* Colic symptoms.

* Baby wanting to breastfeed all the time; not becoming satisfied.

* Gassiness.

* Blood in stools.

* Slow weight gain.

* Diaper rash due to acidic stools.

* Baby has a bowel movement immediately after a feeding.

The Causes of a Hindmilk Foremilk Imbalance

* Oversupply (read more on how to handle oversupply).

* Nursing for short, frequent feedings.

How to Prevent or Stop a Foremilk Hindmilk Imbalance

* To prevent this, Moms should breastfeed only from one breast with each breastfeeding session. If the other breast becomes a bit engorged (overfull), Mom can express some of the milk until her breast feels less full and tight.

* To remedy the imbalance, Mom can breastfeed from each side for a separate 12 to 24 hours. (To prevent engorgement you can express some milk).

* How to reduce breast milk supply: If Mom has an oversupply, she can try reducing milk supply by drinking Sage tea or using cabbage leaves.

* Sometimes, an oversupply is accompanied by a forceful letdown. (Read more on overactive and underactive milk let down here).

Lovely Video that explains Foremilk/Hindmilk 

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems” in connection with foremilk hindmilk imbalance

- Lactose intolerance in the breastfed baby

- Breastfeeding on demand

- Breast engorgement

- Overabundant milk supply

- Breastfeeding overfeeding

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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.