We get this question a lot… “How can I increase the fat content in my milk?”

Truth is, you don’t make low-fat milk. You just make MILK. That’s all. 

When you hear the word “foremilk” or “hindmilk” — it’s referring to just one milk, not two different kinds. The terms simply describe the way that fat content of milk increases as the breast is drained. “Foremilk” is defined as the milk available initially when a baby starts feeding, “Hindmilk” is the milk that can be expressed at the end of a feed. Truth Bomb: Even cows don’t make “low-fat” milk. The “low-fat” milk you see at stores is regular whole milk with some of the fat globules and cream removed.

So what affects the amount of fat/calories in milk? Let's look at some research: 

- Diet itself does not affect the amount of fat/calories in milk. However you can change the types of fat in milk by altering the types of fats that you consume. (Lawrence 1999, Hamosh 1996, Hamosh 1991)

- A 2016 study looked at the fat intake and breast milk fatty acid composition in farming and non-farming women and allergy development in the offspring. They found that: "Farming mothers consumed more butter, whole milk, saturated fat, and total fat than nonfarming mothers, who consumed more margarine, oils, and low-fat milk. Farming mothers’ breast milk contained higher proportions of saturated and lower proportions of polyunsaturated fat. Allergy was eight times more common in nonfarm children. Mothers of allergic children consumed more margarine and oils than mothers of nonallergic children." (Jonsson 2016).

- The fuller the breast, the lower the fat content of the milk; The emptier the breast, the higher the fat content of the milk (Daly 1993).

- Manually expressed human milk had higher fat content than milk expressed by electric pump. (Mangel 2015).

- Combining manual techniques with pumping express high levels of fat-rich, calorie-dense milk, unrelated to production differences. (Morton 2012)

Keep in mind that the fat content in your breast milk varies throughout the day. This is because the time of replenishment of breast milk differs in each mother’s case. Some have fuller breasts in the morning, while some, during other parts of the day. 

Weight gain: 

Your Baby will gain weight dependent on the overall volume of milk that they drink. It is NOT dependent on the fat content of the milk itself. On average, babies consume about 750 mL of milk per day (Kent et al., 2006). As far as growth is concerned, it doesn’t matter if a baby takes 30 mL every hour or 95 mL every three hours, as long as he receives enough milk overall (Mohrbacher, 2010).

Keep in the mind: The CDC growth reference charts are based on primarily formula-fed infants. *Only about 50% of U.S. infants measured to create the CDC growth reference were ever breastfed. *By age 3 months, only 33% of U.S infants were breastfed. 

Some adults are naturally petite and so are some babies. If your baby appears to be happy and healthy, is meeting developmental milestones, and has good wet/stool diaper count, then your baby's low weight gains may be due to family genetics. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby's weight please reach out to your baby's pediatrician. 

 

References: 

Lawrence R and Lawrence R. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, 5th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 1999.

Hamosh M, Dewey, Garza C, et al: Nutrition during Lactation. Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC; National Academy Press 1991. This book is available free from the HRSA Information Center (look under Nutrition publications).

Hamosh M. Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother's Milk. Medscape Women’s Health eJournal 1996;1(5).

Daly SE, Di Rosso A, Owens RA, Hartmann PE. Degree of breast emptying explains changes in the fat content, but not fatty acid composition, of human milk. Exp Physiol. 1993 Nov;78(6):741-55. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.1993.sp003722. PMID: 8311942.

Jonsson, K., Barman, M., Moberg, S. et al. Fat intake and breast milk fatty acid composition in farming and nonfarming women and allergy development in the offspring.Pediatr Res 79, 114–123 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/pr.2015.187

Mangel L, Ovental A, Batscha N, Arnon M, Yarkoni I, Dollberg S. Higher Fat Content in Breastmilk Expressed Manually: A Randomized Trial. Breastfeed Med. 2015 Sep;10(7):352-4. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2015.0058. Epub 2015 Jul 14. PMID: 26171639.

Morton J, Wong RJ, Hall JY, Pang WW, Lai CT, Lui J, Hartmann PE, Rhine WD. Combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases the caloric content of milk in mothers of preterm infants. J Perinatol. 2012 Oct;32(10):791-6. doi: 10.1038/jp.2011.195. Epub 2012 Jan 5. PMID: 22222549.

Kent, J. C., Mitoulas, L. R., Cregan, M. D., Ramsay, D. T., Doherty, D. A., & Hartmann, P. E. (2006). Volume and frequency of breastfeedings and fat content of breast milk throughout the day. Pediatrics, 117(3), e387-395.

Mohrbacher, N. Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, 2010.

“Breastfeeding as the Norm.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Feb. 2022,