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Ensuring that our babies get the proper nutrition should be at the top of our list of priorities.
Since breasts don’t come equipped with gauges telling us how much a baby has eaten (although that would probably be rather convenient), breastfeeding mothers often struggle with doubt.
They worry that their babies aren’t getting enough to eat and that their breast milk isn’t nutritious enough.
Looking at your milk content after pumping can also increase your worries at times.
Because breast milk begins to separate after sitting for a while – with the fattier hindmilk rising to the top and the watery foremilk settling to the bottom of the container – the ratio you are left with may not be exactly to your liking.
Fat content can vary between feedings (Source: Joyful Abode)
If you are worried that you do not have enough fat in your milk, you can rest assured knowing that increasing the fat content of your breast milk can be easily done.
Why is Breast Milk Fat So Important for Babies?
Babies need fats in order to grow (Source: Medela)
Babies grow at a tremendous rate, often tripling their birth weight and growing nearly 10 inches by their first birthday!
In order to support this rate of growth, their bodies need calories (or energy), and these are found in the fat content of breast milk.
Not only are fats necessary for physical growth, but they also play an essential role in proper brain, eye, and nervous system development. 60% of the brain and area surrounding the nerves are composed of fat.
Average Calorie & Fat Content of Human Milk
However, these numbers fluctuate regularly throughout the day. The variations are caused by increasing or decreasing fat levels, caused by the fullness of the breast, and can even be dependent on a baby’s age.
What Affects the Amount of Fat and Calories in a Mother’s Milk?
Contrary to popular belief, a mother’s diet does not usually have an effect on the amount of fat present in breast milk (unless she is malnourished).
However, her diet choices can change the type – saturated, trans, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated – of dietary fats that are present in her milk. One type often increases when there is a decrease in another.
Obviously, not all dietary fats are healthy, so you do want to focus on a diet that increases the healthy type of fat in your breast milk (which we will talk more about later.
The fullness of the breast can also make a difference with the amount of fat in your milk during a feeding session.
At the start of a feeding, when the breast is engorged, the first thing your baby gets is the thin foremilk. By the end of the feeding, when your breast is just about empty, the thick, nutrient-rich hindmilk begins flowing.
This doesn’t mean there is no fat in the foremilk, but there is far less present than there is in hindmilk.
In addition, a longer interval between feedings means less fat content at the start of the next feeding, since fat adheres to milk ducts and more foremilk has had the chance to build up between feedings.
8 Ways to Increase the Fat Content of Your Breast Milk
After finding that fat plays such a critical role in the development of our little ones, we decided to put together a list of eight simple things that can be done to increase the fat content of your breast milk.
Our hope is that these will decrease your doubts about your baby getting the nutrition that they need to grow and thrive.
1. Eat More Fats
Add some healthy fats into your diet (Source: UAE Women)
The amount of fat in your breast milk is not as important as the type.
Unsaturated fats (healthy fats), such as those found in nuts, salmon, avocados, seeds, eggs, and olive oil, are important for both yours and your baby’s diet.
I am not suggesting that you need to follow a strict diet if you are breastfeeding.
However, whatever you eat, your baby will eat in some form. Focus on working more unsaturated fats into your diet and limiting saturated and trans fats.
An occasional splurge is fine, though. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and enjoy that bacon cheeseburger…with pimento cheese…and sweet potato fries…and the milkshake.
You deserve it, mama.
Check out this awesome breast milk booster recipe by Project Simplicity.
2. Drain the Breast
Give your baby enough time to drain the breast (Source: Wikimedia)
Many women believe that they need to feed from both sides at each feeding. This is not always the case.
As milk is produced, fat globules in the milk stick to each other and to the walls of alveoli, the structures where milk is produced (often referred to as milk ducts).
The milk gradually moves toward the nipple as the breasts fill, bringing the thin watery stuff forward while leaving the denser and fattier hindmilk behind (because it’s sticking to the walls of the ducts).
Switching baby from breast to breast while they are still actively sucking means that they aren’t getting enough time to reach the fattier hindmilk that helps them pack on the pounds.
Wait until they are done emptying one breast, and if they are still hungry, switch to the other.
3. Nurse frequently.
Shorten time between nursing sessions to keep hindmilk at the front (Source: Magikmouse)
Think about when you turn on a faucet in your house.
At first, the water comes out cold and then gradually gets warmer and warmer until it is hot.
If you come back a minute later and turn the faucet on again, it will still be relatively warm.
However, if you come back an hour later, the water will be cold, and you will have to wait for it to warm up again.
Your breasts work in a similar way.
When the baby first latches on, the relatively low-fat foremilk is released. Little by little the milk becomes fattier and fattier as the hindmilk is pulled down from the ducts.
If you nurse frequently, the milk doesn’t have time to “get cold.” There is less foremilk for your baby to go through before they get to the good stuff.
In other words, the less time in between feedings, the higher the fat content at the beginning of that particular feeding.
4. Breast Compressions
Massage and breast compression can help optimize milk flow (Source: Breastfeeding.Support)
It’s exactly what it sounds like—compress your breast while the baby is suckling to stimulate the milk ejection reflex.
Think of what it looks like to milk a cow. Yes, it’s a little weird to think of yourself that way, but essentially it’s the same thing.
Encircle your breast with one hand, and squeeze in a way that seems like you are pushing the milk toward the nipple. This should be a repeated action throughout the feeding.
Your baby should feel the milk release each time and continue drinking.
WIth this concept in mind, you can also do breast massage to prepare your breasts for the next feeding. Not only will this help to release the fatty hindmilk, but it can also prevent blocked ducts and painful mastitis.
5. Start Pumping
Pumping first will give your baby more fat at the start of a feeding (Source: Babble)
Being a mother is a hard job, and one of the perks of breastfeeding is not having to worry about washing baby bottles.
However, but if you’re interested in increasing the fattiness of your milk, a breast pump can help.
As previously mentioned, a relatively empty breast contains higher fat milk.
Pumping before nursing allows you to empty your breast of some of that foremilk so that baby doesn’t get full before getting to the fatty stuff.
We have had great success with the Ameda Purely Yours breast pump, which you can order here, but check with your insurance provider first, as many will provide mothers with a breast pump, free of charge.
6. Add More Protein
Try adding more protein to your diet (Source: Men’s Health)
Protein is an essential component in breast milk, but what does it have to do with fat content?
Consuming more protein can help increase your milk supply overall, which means more milk and fat for your baby.
Lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds are the best dietary sources of protein.
However, if you are a vegetarian or you do not get enough protein from your food alone, consider adding a protein supplement (powder for shakes) to your diet.
7. Take Supplements
Sunflower lecithin can potentially increase fat in breast milk (Source: Organic Facts)
Certain supplements can help increase breast milk supply, and there are some that can potentially increase the fat content.
One in particularly that moms seem to swear by is Sunflower Lecithin.
It is usually used by mothers who experience frequently blocked ducts and cannot find relief with compression or massage.
This supplement works by decreasing the viscosity, or stickiness, of breast milk by mixing the fatty parts of breast milk with the watery parts, essentially making it more “slippery.”
It is believed that this could also help your baby get more fat-rich hindmilk quickly at the beginning of a feeding, which increases the percentage of fatty acids present.
8. Separate Milk
Separating your milk can help increase your baby’s caloric intake (Source: Funny-Shaped Mom)
With all this talk of foremilk and hindmilk, you may already be thinking about how to get your baby more of the fattening goodness.
If you are pumping either exclusively or on occasion, you can do this by separating your milk as you pump.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it is very easy to do.
Start pumping like normal, and after about two minutes, when the milk begins to flow steadily turn the pump off and dump this milk into an empty container. This is the foremilk, and should be about ⅓ of the usual amount you pump.
You can then continue pumping until your breasts are drained.
When you compare the milk containers side by side, you should be able to see an obvious difference between the consistencies.
You can then bottle feed your baby more hindmilk to help boost their growth when necessary.
Breast milk isn’t called liquid gold for nothing! There are benefits galore with breastfeeding your little one.
To learn more about the benefits of fat in mothers’ milk, check out video below:
To Sum It All Up
These eight simple steps are meant to help you increase the fattiness of your breast milk and ensure that your baby is getting all the nutrition that they need.
It’s important to remember that the most fatty milk is expelled from the breast when it is near empty, so be sure to pump or nurse often and let your little one finish one breast before moving to the other.
Breast is best, and some breast milk is better than none. Don’t be discouraged by any blips or hiccups you may experience on your journey. It happens!
Just go with the flow; you and your little one will be grateful you did.
We’d love to hear about your breastfeeding journey, so please feel free to submit your questions and comments below.
Read more: Best Bottle for Gassy Baby Review 2017