Colostrum, Foremilk and Hindmilk…What’s the difference?

I attended a breastfeeding class the other day and I was a little shocked to hear the instructor give out wrong information. This prompted me to do some research, again, just to confirm the true facts. I thought I would pass on the information, as I’m sure this is a topic many question.

Breast milk changes throughout the breastfeeding period. The milk that comes in at the beginning of a feeding is composed differently than the milk that comes in later on. So….which is which and what’s the difference?

Let’s start from the beginning. During your last weeks of pregnancy your body is preparing for the birth of your beautiful baby. Including your breasts. You may notice you may be leaking or are able to express a few drops of colostrum. This is the first milk you make for your baby.

Colostrum is a thick yellowish colour that comes in 1-3 days after birth if its not already present. The colour is due to a high level of Bata-carotene. It is low in fat (fat is harder for a newborns system to digest) and high in protein which is a building block of all cells. Its also packed full of essential vitamins and nutrients all which is perfectly suited for a new baby. Colostrum is also packed full of antibodies and live cells which are essential in protecting this new being from the outside world, because up until this point baby has been in a totally sterile environment. There is actually an antibody passed from mother to baby that lines the mucus membranes in your babies stomach, intestines, respiratory tract and lungs. These membranes are not matured yet and with out this antibody germs and other invaders can pass through the membrane and into the babies body. Another amazing fact about colostrum is it has a mild laxative effect which helps to pass the meconium from babies digestive system, it is a very thick black, almost tar-like substance which is in your babies bowels at the time of birth.

So after you breastfeed for a few days your milk will begin to mature and change. It will become watery and take on a white, almost bluish colour at times. Mature milk has more calories than colostrum. Colostrum has about 58 calories per 100ml, while mature breast milk has about 70 calories per 100ml.(The number will change slightly with variations in diet, these numbers are based on a study on British women.) Mature milk contains less protein than colostrum but has more fat and carbohydrate composition. It is shown that the fat and caloric content in mature milk increases in mothers that feed past six months.

During individual feedings,the longer baby feeds at the breast the fattier the milk composition. Which bring us to the foremilk and hind milk. These terms seem to imply that there are two different types of milk your breasts make during a feeding. But this is not the case. When your milk is stored in your ducts between feedings. The fat in the milk separates from the watery portion and clings to the walls of the cells. The thinner portion of the milk passes down to the nipple quickly once the baby latches on and starts sucking and the longer the baby sucks the more fat will pass down the ducts to baby.

There is no need to worry about how much hind milk your baby is getting, as long as he or she is gaining weight, growing and wetting enough diapers.

I hope this helps to clear up any questions you may have had and helps you to better understand breast milk.

I always welcome feedback and questions. 🙂

REFERENCES

“Are the Terms ‘Foremilk’ and ‘Hindmilk’ Still used?”, (Unicef), Available: http://www.unicef.org.uk(Accessed:2013,April 14).

“Basic Biology-Molecules of Life-Proteins”, (EMBL-EBI), Available: http://www.ebi.ac.uk(Accessed: 2013, April 14).

Bonyata,K., (2011,August 29), “I’m Confused About Foremilk and Hindmilk-How Does This Work?”, (Kellymom), Available: http://www.kellymom.com(Accessed:2013, April 14).

Dewar,G., (2008), “Nutrients and Calories in Breast Milk: A Guide for the Science-Minded”, (Parenting Science), Available: http://www.parenting science.com(Accessed: 2013, April 14).

La Leche League, (2004), The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 7th edition, the Penguin Group, New York.

Marasco,L., West,D., “What is the Difference Between Foremilk and Hindmilk? Is my Baby’s Fussiness caused by the Lactose in my Milk?”, (Low Milk Supply), Available: http://www.lowmilksupply.org(Accessed: 2013, April 14).

Mohrbacher,N., (2010, June 27), “Worries about Foremilk and Hindmilk”, (Nancy Mohrbacher Breastfeeding Reporter), Available: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com(Accessed: 2013, April 14).