Breast milk is a superfood packed with all the nutrients a baby needs to grow and thrive. It has been specifically designed to target the baby’s needs according to their stage, and it has been proven that it changes its properties when the baby is sick and needs extra help. It seems like magic, and the truth is that the human body does not cease to amaze us. Breast milk protects our babies from infection and illness—breastfed babies may not contract ear, lungs, or urinary tract infections. The proteins, hormones, sugar, fat, and vitamins in breast milk help the baby develop and grow, while its antibodies protect its health.
One of the primary nutrients in breast milk, which provides the energy the baby needs to grow and develop, is fat. Hence, how to make breastmilk fattier is one of the things that moms should know. Fats are in charge of the proper development of the brain, eyes, and nervous system besides enabling physical growth. Also, 60% of the brain and the nerves area are composed of fat. Babies can also triple their weight and grow about 10 inches by the time they turn one, which requires a lot of energy from fatty milk.
Breast milk has an average fat content of 3–5%, but this can vary during feedings throughout the day. This means that many factors affect the fat content of every feeding session, and you may get a higher percentage at one session than in a later one where you can get less fatty breast milk. Also, the baby’s age can change the fat content of the milk because, as we have said before, breast milk adapts to the baby’s requirements when they take it.
This may cause concern among parents who wish to always provide the best nutrients for their little ones and may find themselves searching for ways to make breastmilk fattier. Contrary to what we may believe, what the mother eats may not always be directly related to the fat content of her breast milk, but it does affect the quality and the type of fat in her milk. So let us dive into how to make breastmilk fattier and how it works.
Why does my breast milk look watery?
When you start breastfeeding or pump and store breast milk, it can look watery. This is called foremilk, and the reason is simple—breast milk can be divided into foremilk and hindmilk. When you produce breast milk, the fat globules in it stick to each other and to the walls of the milk ducts. Since the fattier milk, which is the hindmilk, is sticking to the walls and moving slower, the first that comes out is the watery foremilk. It does not mean that foremilk is not good for your baby. It is still packed with nutrients, and it just has lower fat content than hindmilk. This is your body’s way of saving the best for last.
How to make breastmilk fattier
If you are concerned about the quality of your breast milk and want to make sure it has enough fat content to help your baby thrive, here are some things you can try.
1. Eat consciously
More important than the fat content of your breast milk is the type of fat it has loaded with. Fat is categorized as unsaturated, trans, and saturated fats, and they all have different characteristics and come from different types of foods. You want to consume unsaturated fats, also known as healthy fats, and good sources are:
- Oils: canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, corn, flaxseed, soybean, and sunflower.
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pecans.
- Fish and seafood.
While doing this, you will want to limit, not necessarily eliminate, but in limited quantities, saturated and trans fats. Sources of saturated fats include meat (beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin), beef fat and lard, dairy products (cream, butter, cheese, ice cream), oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils), and some baked and fried food.
The point is not necessarily following a strict diet but making smart decisions on what you are eating and the changes you can make to your diet to make breastmilk fattier the right way.
2. Don’t switch breasts too soon
Breastfeeding moms have been taught to switch babies from one breast to another at 20-minute intervals. However, remember that fatty hindmilk comes out when the breast is nearly empty, so you might be missing it. So, instead of switching from one breast to the other, allow the baby to drain one breast completely, and if they are still hungry, allow them to feed on the other. If you are worried that your baby feeds from only one side and do not want to waste the rest, use a breast pump and store it.
3. Choose the right position
The position you place your baby for breastfeeding and some techniques may help them access more hindmilk. If the baby sucks deeper, they will get more milk to flow and increase fat consumption from each feed.
4. Pump it
One of the plus sides of exclusively breastfeeding is not needing to use baby bottles and clean them, including a breast pump. It is great if your baby drains your milk supply in one feeding session. But if you have an overproduction of breast milk or want to make breastmilk fattier, then pumping may help.
You can pump right after feeding your baby to make sure you do not waste any of the denser and fattier hindmilk, or you can do it before nursing your baby, so you get some of the thin watery stuff out and allow your baby to access the more fat-rich hindmilk. You can also pump and store any overproduction, so it does not go to waste.
5. Increase breastfeeding frequency
As we explained earlier, milk gradually moves through the milk ducts bringing the foremilk before the hindmilk, which moves slower, but it is the higher fat milk you want your baby to have. If you nurse frequently, you do not give enough time for the foremilk to push back the fatty hindmilk, so you will get fat-rich hindmilk quickly from each feeding session. To make it simpler, the less time you wait between feedings, the more hindmilk your baby will get.
6. Massage and breast compression
When you massage and compress your breast, you help milk flow towards the nipple, and frequently blocked ducts caused by solidified fat particles on breast milk get unclogged. So, what you need to do is, while the baby is suckling your breast, encircle your breast with one hand and squeeze as if pushing the breast milk forward. Repeat the action during the whole breastfeeding session. You can also massage your breast before feeding or pumping to unclog any blocked milk ducts and bring more fat-rich hindmilk to the forefront.
7. Increase milk supply
One of the main components of breast milk is protein, and although it does not directly relate to making breast milk fattier, it will increase your overall milk supply. Good and healthy protein sources include lean meats, chicken, fish, dairy, nuts, and seeds. But if you have a plant-based diet and still want to increase your protein intake, consider taking protein supplements.
There is a wide variety of protein supplements designed to target the nursing mother’s needs. You can also use supplements such as Sunflower Lecithin to increase your supply and help unblocking milk ducts as it reduces the breast milk viscosity and allows it to flow more freely. It is also believed that Sunflower Lecithin increases the fatty acids in breast milk.
Breast milk fat separation
Have you noticed that stored breast milk sometimes separates? The reason is that the fat content goes to the top when cooled or frozen. This is normal, and it can help as a way to measure the amount of fat present in your breast milk.
A trick some breastfeeding mothers use is that, when pumping, they separate the milk extracted during the first few minutes from the one extracted afterward. You will notice that the first part, about a third of your overall supply, is the thin watery stuff, and right after, you will see the hindmilk starting to flow. If you dump the foremilk and only store the denser and fattier hindmilk, you make sure that when you bottle-feed your baby, they get enough fat in their systems.
Signs that you need to make breastmilk fattier
Besides the need to provide what is best for your baby, there may be cases where you will need to increase the fat content of your breast milk because you will see actual signs that it is not fatty enough for your baby to develop properly.
The first thing you will notice is that the baby is not gaining the expected weight or is even losing weight. It is normal for a newborn baby to lose some weight in the first week after birth as swelling reduces, but they should regain it quickly with breast milk. So if you notice this, contact your pediatrician. Also, you may notice that the baby cannot regulate their body temperature, which a lack of fats may cause to maintain and regulate body heat normally. In this case, the baby will seem and feel cold, so take this as a sign that you need to make breastmilk fattier.
To summarize how to make breastmilk fattier and why it is important that your child gets the right amount of fat intake, keep in mind that the first thing we need to do is improve the quality of the fatty acids present in breast milk. If we increase the fat content of the mother’s milk through a poor diet with lots of trans and saturated fats, then the results will not be what we expect.
Favor a healthy diet with unsaturated fats, also known as more healthy fats, that you can get from many foods, including olive oil, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish, among many others.
Consuming more protein does not make breast milk fattier but increases your milk production. The more milk you produce, the more you will be able to provide to your baby, and if they take enough milk, they will get enough fat to thrive. Also, you can consume foods that provide protein naturally or complement it with a protein supplement.
When your breasts fill with milk, there is too much milk in them, and if you try switching breasts before you have an empty breast, then it is likely that your baby is not getting all the benefits from hindmilk. Try waiting until you have an empty breast before switching the baby to the other one. And if they are satisfied and do not want to continue breastfeeding, use a manual breast pump or an electric breast pump to store the leftover milk.
Breast compressions and breast massage help improve breast milk flow and dislodge any blockage caused by solidified fatty content in the milk ducts. Through this, milk begins to flow towards the nipple faster, and you will make breast milk fattier because you will mix hindmilk with foremilk in that particular feeding.
All of these may sound more complicated than it is, and once you get used to them, you might not even notice that you are going above and beyond to turn breastmilk fattier. And when you start seeing your little one grow and develop as expected, it will all be worth it.
Always consider consulting with a medical professional, a doula, or a lactation expert to get more insight on how to make breastmilk fattier.