Have you ever compared pumped breastmilk and noticed they look different colors? Milk can be different colors for many reasons. It will have a tint of yellow in the first few days as you express colostrum and later may be slightly green when your body is fighting an infection. If you only pump for a short while you may notice the milk looks transparent white; this is foremilk. After pumping for a longer period of time the milk will be creamy white due to the high fat content; this is hindmilk. When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s helpful to understand the difference between foremilk and hindmilk so your baby is getting the nutrients she needs.

Why Breastmilk Transforms

So, why does our milk change throughout a feeding? As the baby nurses, the body releases a hormone known as prolactin which triggers the body to produce more fatty hindmilk.

How long does your baby need to eat to get both versions of milk? Generally, it takes about 10-20 minutes for a baby to drain the breast and get both foremilk and hindmilk. However, it is important to note that this may vary depending on the age of the baby and the amount of milk they need. As babies get older they become more efficient at suckling from the breast and may be able to empty your breast in half the time it took them as a newborn.

Foremilk:

Foremilk is the milk that is expressed in the beginning of a feeding.

  • Foremilk usually is thin and watery.
  • It helps to hydrate your baby and quench her thirst.
  • It contains more lactose, the sugar found in milk, than hindmilk. This provides your baby with an easily digestible source of energy.
  • The fat content of foremilk is usually lower than that of hindmilk. This means that your baby won’t get all of the necessary fats and calories right away, but she will get them as the feeding progresses.

Hindmilk:

Hindmilk is the milk that is expressed at the end of a feeding. It is produced after the foremilk has been drained from the breast.

  • Hindmilk is thicker and creamier than foremilk and contains more fat and calories.
  • In addition, it helps your baby to feel full and satisfied, and gives her the calories and fats she needs to grow and develop.
  • Hindmilk also helps to protect your baby from infection and disease, because it contains antibodies and other immune-boosting properties.
  • Hindmilk is higher in some vitamins, such as A and E.
  • It also provides important minerals such as iron, which can help to prevent anemia.

Baby Needs Both Foremilk & Hindmilk

In the end, you don’t need to worry too much as your baby will drink what her body needs. If you pump, empty your breasts and you will know both varieties of milk will be in the bottle. Keep in mind both foremilk and hindmilk are important in their own ways and important for your baby’s growth and development.

If you are ever concerned about your baby’s weight gain talk to your pediatrician. Any additional questions you have about the length of feeding, a correct latch, or burping can be answered by Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s lactation consultants. Reach out today for a consultation.

About The Author

Carole K. Arsenault is the founder and CEO of Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has years of experience working with newborns as a lactation consultant, sleep coach, and of course an RN specializing in Obstetrics and Maternal Health. In addition, she is the award winning author of Newborn 101. She has three grown children and loves to share mindfulness tips to friends and parents.