An expecting mom recently asked me a question that I have heard several times before. “How can I make my breast milk more fatty?” Your breast milk is the perfect nutrition for your baby and is all that baby needs in the first six months post birth. It’s rich in fat in addition to protein, complex carbohydrates, and immune boosting nutrients. But here is some information that can hopefully help your milk be the cream of the crop.
First of all, why would you want your breast milk to be more fatty in the first place? Well, here are some reasons why many moms want to make sure their milk is full of fat:
- Fat in breast milk builds brighter brains. Did you know that the human brain is made of 60% fat AND your baby’s brain will grow to 90% of its adult size by age 5? That’s a lot of growth in such a short time, with the fastest rate during the first 2 years, a time when many moms are choosing to breastfeed for at least part of this time. The fat in breast milk is high in nutrients perfect for building baby’s brain such as Essential Fatty Acids (aka Omega-3) and antioxidants. Here is some more information on health benefits to breastfeeding your baby.
- Some parents want a chunky baby! Let’s face it, we all love kissing, munching on baby cheeks and cuddling a cutely plump baby. Much of that fat that’s being stored will eventually get used during growth spurts. Occasionally, babies will go through growth spurts, that correlate with a spike in physical and mental growth. Baby seems to feed non stop for a day or so, then all of a sudden sleeps for just about 1-2 days straight. Here is some more information on baby’s growth spurts during the first year.
- Moms (and dads) want baby to sleep through the night. When baby’s tummy feels more satiated, that could mean less waking during the middle of the night be to be fed, and mom/dad can sleep longer through the night. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for mom and baby, although, don’t expect it during your baby’s first 3 months out of the womb. The more mom gets a good night’s sleep, the happier she is, the stronger her immune system is, the more she can function during the day, and the more milk she can make! Here is some more information on infant sleep that every parent should know.
- Mom wants to lose the pregnancy weight as quickly as possible. Having a baby changes us in so many ways, and one of those is physically. Some women struggle more than others to lose the pregnancy weight, especially after the second, third, fourth baby, etc. So what’s the skinny on fatty milk? I remember a friend telling me after she had her first baby, that her milk was so fatty, her pregnancy weight just melted away from breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for your new baby, it also has a lot of benefits for mom, including helping her lose the pregnancy weight. Your body shape might not be the same, but carrying around less excess weight can help mom have more energy to keep up with the demands of motherhood and the upcoming stage of toddlerhood! Nursing your baby also helps release oxytocin, that contracts the muscles in the uterus and helps shrink it back to it’s prepregnancy size. It’s common to feel pains in the uterus while nursing. That’s the uterus shrinking! Bonus: Oxytocin is also a stress reducing hormone. Here are some other great benefits for breastfeeding moms.
So back to the original question, “How do I make my breast milk more fatty?” Well, it helps to know more about breast milk in order to answer this question.
- What’s foremilk and hindmilk? The milk that comes out during the first few minutes of nursing is called foremilk, and the milk that comes out toward the end of the feeding is called hindmilk. Typically, the foremilk tends to be lower in fat than the hindmilk, but not always. Generally, when mom drains the milk from one or both breasts in a feeding, and feedings are spaced longer apart, the foremilk tends to be more watery than the hindmilk. When baby nurses on demand every hour or so, there can still be lots of fat in the foremilk. The fat accumulates in the milk ducts and is released along with the let down due to baby sucking or using a breast pump. Some women pump before a feeding to release the foremilk, and stimulate let down before nursing the baby. There may be specific reasons to do this like if baby’s lack of weight gain is a concern, your doctor might recommend this method. However, it is generally not recommended. The foremilk also contains important nutrients for the baby and balance between all these nutrients is what most babies need. Here is an article from La Leche League International about foremilk and hindmilk.
- Nutrition. You are what you eat, and helping your body produce the healthiest breast milk is no exception. It’s important to keep a eat a healthy diet for your own health and wellness, and especially important when lactating. Whole foods like wild salmon, nuts and seeds, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help boost the nutrition quality and quantity of your milk supply. Eating more fat does not necessarily mean that your breast milk will be more fatty, but the right type of fat is necessary in a healthy diet. Be sure to include lots of protein from whole foods because protein is needed for milk production. Smoothies are a quick and great way to help you pack in the punch when it comes to nutrition. Dr. Sears calls it “Lactade!” Here is one smoothie recipe that can help satiate your palate, stomach, and growing baby. Don’t forget about water, a major component of breast milk. Tip: Drink at least an 8 ounce glass of water every time your baby nurses to make sure you are well hydrated. And here is some more information regarding nutrition while breastfeeding.
- Stress less and sleep when baby sleeps. Stress can impact your milk supply. If you have a new baby and you are not sleeping through the night (like most parents with new babies), that’s already putting stress on your body. Being a new mom can be stressful enough, but make sure to sleep when baby sleeps to help put the stress hormones at bay. You still need as much sleep as you can get. Aim for at least 6-7 hours a day, but with a new baby, it’ll have to come at 1- 2 hour intervals during the daytime and night time. Did you know that nursing also helps relieve mom’s stress? It’s the oxytocin mentioned above. Read more about stress and breast milk.
Don’t forget, a nursing mom’s body is designed to produce the exact milk that her baby needs. There’s generally no need to worry about making your milk more fatty unless your baby’s growth is of concern. If your baby gets sick, is dehydrated, or is going through a growth spurt, your amazing body adapts, changes, and responds to your baby’s nutritional needs. Pregnancy and birth truly are nature’s miracles, and it’s also impressive and amazing how nature made mom’s milk the perfect cream of the crop when it comes to baby’s nutrition.
Here are some other great resources for nursing moms:
- Consider working with a lactation consultant
- La Leche League International
- Kelly Mom
- Dr. Sears
- Shred10 – Simple 10 Day plan to healthier living
For any concerns, please consult your medical care provider.
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