Breast milk is the total source of nutrition for babies for the first 6 months of life! Every mom’s breast milk will look and taste differently. It can change from day to day even. Isn’t that totally amazing! Our bodies are meant to create an optimized and customized nutrition source for our little one. Although, our bodies are programed to do this, there are some things we can do to improve the nutrient content of our breast milk. Specifically how to make breastmilk fattier for optimal baby nutrition.
In this guide you will learn:
- Importance of Fat in Breastmilk
- How to Identify if there is a problem
- Tips/things to avoid to increase fat content
Table of Contents
Why is it Important to Have Fatty Breastmilk?
Breast milk fat is a huge source for energy in newborns. It provides nearly 50% of your baby’s energy intake. Fat also helps to regulate development, metabolism, immune function, and is essential for neural connections and brain development..
Fat also plays a role in digestion by slowing down the process. If the milk is low in fat content it can speed through the gut before the milk sugar(lactose) can be digested causing some problems. This can cause green, frothy, explosive stools, flatulence, and significant pain.
So if your child is not getting enough fat in their diet they are likely to not be gaining weight appropriately, staying within normal variants on growth charts, or are having digestional issues.
This is why doctors are regularly measuring and weighing your children early in their development. They understand that significant growth is occurring. Weights and growth measurements are some of the best ways we can determine if a child is not getting what they need to develop as they should.
Another good measure is are they making enough wet and dirty diapers. This is a question your doctor is likely to ask if you are concerned about your baby’s growth or development.
How Much Fat is in Human Milk?
Fat content in human milk is typically about 3-5%. The total fat content in your milk doesn’t vary too much base on your diet, but it can impact the types of fatty acid chains and additional nutrients within your breastmilk.
There are many other factors that will affect the fat content including frequency of feeding/pumping, time of day, and fullness of your breasts.
Foremilk vs Hindmilk
There is a lot of talk about foremilk and hindmilk. They are both essentially the same, but is really related to the mechanics of feeding rather than it being a different kind of milk all together. Both foremilk and hindmilk are essential for baby’s development.
Fat globules tend to stick to each other and the alveoli where milk is made. As your baby feeds it pulls the fat into the milk. The fuller your breasts are the lower the fat content. The emptier your breasts are the higher the fat content.
So in the beginning of your feeding your milk will be mostly water and nutrients (foremilk) that are important for hydration. Gradually as your baby continues to feed the fat content will increase. The fat globules will continue to get dislodged and increase your total fat content in your breast milk. Near the end of the feed will be the highest fat content(hindmilk).
What Factors Affect Fat Content in Breast milk?
Again I will say your diet does not affect the fat content of your breast milk. Your breasts create breast milk from what is available in the bloodstream and it will take what it needs in order to provide for your baby. So you really don’t have to stress too much about what specifically you are eating. Our bodies have done this since the beginning of time to provide for our little ones no matter what our food availability is.
Grocery stores packed full of any food you can imagine may not be an option/haven’t always been the option throughout time. We are blessed to live in a time of abundance and convenience.
However, you can become nutritionally depleted if you don’t take care of yourself. So although what you eat won’t greatly affect what your baby eats, it definitely will affect how you feel and how you function postpartum. So prioritizing eating enough healthy fats, proteins, and carbs is necessary.
The quality of the fats you eat will impact will however affect the types of fatty acid chains your baby will receive. So don’t totally throw in the towel.
It really mostly comes down to the mechanics of breastfeeding.
Emptiness of the breast: Your breast milks fat content relies significantly on how empty your breast is. The fuller your breasts are the lower the fat content and the emptier your breasts are the more creamy, fat milk your baby will receive.
Longer/more frequent feedings: if you are feeding longer you are likely to get to the hindmilk or higher fat content. Also by increasing the frequency of feeding you will feed prior to getting too full and get a higher fat content.
Breast compression/massage: can increase flow of milk and help fat globules to be freed and integrate into breastmilk.
Time of day: your breast milk composition actually changes throughout the day. Your fat content usually increases over the course of a day. This is to fill your baby and prepare them to sleep through the night. Your milks fat content will be lowest early in the morning when you have the most abundance. This is related to your normal circadian rhythms.
Often moms worry about all the details of their milk…am i producing enough, are they eating enough, is there enough fat? Really we probably put way too much pressure on ourselves. Our babies are very good at eating the right amounts and our bodies are good at managing our milk production for their needs.
Although the nutritional composition of our breastmilk can change throughout the day, comparing the 24 hour fat content remains about the same day to day. Meaning overall, our bodies and our babies are pretty good at what they do.
How do you Know if Your Milk has Enough Fat?
Really the best indicator of if your baby is getting enough fat is are they gaining weight? I know it can be a huge worry for most moms. We want to have healthy and well developed children. The truth is though we probably worry about it too much. If your baby is gaining weight and maintaining consistent growth at each checkup your baby should be getting plenty of fat. Like I said before even during times of nutrient deficiency and low food sources our bodies have been able to make quality nutrition for our little one’s needs.
When do I Need to see a Provider Concerning my Breastmilk Supply?
Your body produces milk on a supply and demand basis. The more your child eats the more your body will produce in order to meet demands. If you supply is going down you may ask yourself has there been a change in your feeding? The best way to keep up your supply is to feed on demand. Then add in some pumping sessions as needed. In most cases you will be able to make small adjustments to get supply back quickly.
If you are concerned about your breastmilk supply you should reach out to a lactation consultant. They will be able to assess your particular situation and make recommendations to improve your supply and continue your breastfeeding experience as long as you and your little one would like.
Some mothers regardless of their efforts will struggle to breastfeed or meet their child’s needs. They will never be able to produce the amount of milk that other moms do. That is okay and it’s not your fault. You do the best that you can. Please don’t blame yourself. We live in a world where we have options and we can turn to other options such as formula supplementation to meet our babies needs. If you think that would be a good fit for you and your child read more here.
How Can I Make my Breast milk Fattier?
The biggest take away here when it comes to higher fat content in your breast milk is working with your body’s mechanics. Your body will take what it needs to provide your little one with quality nutrition. In order to get the highest fat content you will need to remember how it works.
Since, mechanics play such a big factor in total milk fat content. The first step in good nutrition when breastfeeding is having a proper latch. When your baby is properly on the breast they are going to have more effective suck and drain the milk for efficiently. Quality effective feeding cuts down on energy expenditure, better communication to your body to produce enough milk, and more full bellies.
Your little one will gain weight more effectively and should continue to meet growth expectations. Poor latch may lead to poor feeding overall and more pain for mom and baby.
Find yourself a good breastfeeding support group or a quality lactation consultant to help you manage any challenges that come with breastfeeding.
Eat Enough Food
Now I know I said diet doesn’t really matter, but it does for someone and that someone is you. You need to be feeding yourself enough food to allow you the energy, stamina, and nutrients to keep you going. You should be eating when you are hungry as a breastfeeding mom.
Making someone else’s food all day is exhausting. It burns a lot of calories (roughly 500 every day). Now is not the time to be cutting calories and trying to lose all that baby weight. Eating enough calories will be important to nourish yourself.
It can also impact your overall production of milk if you are not eating enough. Try not to focus on losing weight for at least 2 months while your milk supply regulates. At that point if you want to start focusing on weight loss it should not affect your overall milk production too much as long as you are eating enough calories. Focus your diet on eating a lot of healthy fruits, vegetables, fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.
You can work on losing about 1-2 lbs per week to ensure you aren’t dropping weight too quickly.
Otherwise you are going to find yourself a burnt out, exhausted, frustrated mom and the likelihood you will continue breastfeeding when times get tough is slim. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
Eat Healthy Fats
We know the amount of fats we eat won’t affect the quantity of fat in our breast milk. However, it does affect the quality of the fat that our babies are eating. That can be very beneficial for their growth and development. So some great options are:
- chia seeds
- olive oil
- nut butters
- fish (such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are full of omega-3 fatty acids)
- seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame…)
- soy milk
Nurse More Frequently
Remember the more empty your breasts are the higher the fat content will be. As you nurse more frequently you don’t allow your breasts to fill too full. This will allow your little one to get a higher fat content with each feeding.
Massage Your Breasts
When you massage your breasts or compress your breasts while breastfeeding you help to dislodge the fat globules and they are released into your breast milk. This helps to get an overall higher fat content while nursing.
Pump a Little Out First
The foremilk has the lowest fat content, by pumping off a little prior to feeding you are increasing the milk’s fat content. This can be done if your baby is having trouble gaining weight. However, this shouldn’t be done at every feeding. The foremilk is essential for properly hydrating your little one and is full of important nutrients.
Empty One Breast First
Make sure you are emptying your breast so you can get the milk with the highest fat content before switching breasts. If they are moving to the other breast before emptying they may never get enough of the rich fatty hindmilk.
You can pair this technique with others such as breast massage to be more effective.
Just like with food you should be drinking whenever you are thirsty. Your breast milk is about 87% water so staying hydrating is important for you and your baby. If you are getting sick of drinking plain water you can get water through your foods, teas, soups, and other liquids.
Express Milk After Feeding
If you feel that you little one isn’t emptying your breasts with every feeding pump after the feeding to empty your breasts. Avoid this early in your breastfeeding journey as it can cause you to over produce. This can cause a lot of pain and complications (such as mastitis) in the long term.
If you wait to do this after your supply has leveled out then it shouldn’t cause any problems. This allows your breasts to empty and allow for higher milk content in the next feeding.
You can also safe the hindmilk pumped and feed it to your little one when you want them to get fattier milk.
Stress can greatly affect your breastfeeding experience for you and your baby. A study published in 2021 connected long term chronic stress with lower fat content. Interestingly enough acute stress did not have the same effects on mother’s breast milk.
I know life can be very stressful while pregnant and postpartum, but strive to find ways to reduce your stress. Meditation can be a great way to help reduce stress. Introducing fun activities, connecting with friends/family, getting outside and active are all great ways to help reduce your overall stress. If you need additional assistance find a therapist near.
In conclusion, breast milk is a remarkable and personalized source of nutrition for your baby. While your diet may not directly affect the fat content of your milk, it does affect overall breast milk volume and types of fats. Remember, your body is designed to produce quality milk for your little one’s needs so don’t stress too much about what to eat.
By understanding the mechanics of breastfeeding and implementing simple strategies like proper latch, frequent nursing, breast massage, and consuming healthy fats, you can optimize the fat content of your breast milk. Additionally, don’t forget to take care of yourself and reduce stress as much as possible. If you ever have concerns about your milk supply or your baby’s growth, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant or provider you trust. Trust in your body’s ability to provide for your baby and embrace the incredible journey of breastfeeding. Your love and dedication will nourish your little one in ways that no other source can.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.