How To Correct A Foremilk-Hindmilk Imbalance
There's an overabundance of information available to nursing moms these days. Information about increasing your supply, decreasing your supply, helping with latch issues, extended breastfeeding, night nursing, and so much more. And though more information is usually a great thing (it allows us to make informed decisions and do what we think is best for our babies,) it can also lead to overwhelm and extra-stress from over thinking everything that's going on. One such area that many moms stress over is how to correct a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, and worrying that their baby isn't getting enough of "one kind."
According to La Leche League, while some women do have a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, it's a very rare issue. Before you determine whether or not you have an imbalance though, it's important to know just what foremilk and hindmilk actually is.
The same piece from LLLI noted that the idea that there's two separate "kinds" of breast milk is a common misconception. Your breasts only produce one kind of milk, but the fat content does vary depending on how long the milk has been in the milk ducts and how much has been removed from the breast. Foremilk, or the milk that your baby ingests first, is less dense and fatty than the hindmilk, which sits further back in your milk ducts. And, as the article stated, if you have an oversupply of breast milk, your baby will likely fill up on the foremilk, which can cause an imbalance and other issues like lactase sensitivity, weight loss, and fussiness, as well as being very painful for you.
Oversupply is sometimes caused when a mother's body is "very enthusiastic" and produces more milk than is necessary, LLLI noted. Other times it can be caused by accidentally teaching your body to produce more milk by following misleading breastfeeding management advice (like nursing only on one side at all times, or pumping too frequently.) Here are a few ways to correct for the imbalance.
1. Identify The Cause Of The Oversupply
Breastfeeding USA noted that since imbalances can be caused by different factors, like hormones, how often you nurse, or even simply from your milk coming in before your body has a chance to regulate your supply, identifying where the problem is coming from is the first step to fixing it.
2. Avoid Unnecessary Pumping
Unless you have a consistent pumping routine and your body is adjusted to the amount of milk you make, avoid pumping more than you need to. The more you pump the more milk your body will make, contributing to the issue instead of solving it. Pumping or hand expressing enough only to relieve your discomfort will ensure that your body doesn't end up making even more milk.
3. Try "Uphill Nursing"
Breastfeeding USA suggested mothers with an oversupply nurse in positions where the milk must flow up the breast instead of down, such as laid back nursing or fully reclined on your back.
4. Try Block Feedings
Although this isn't recommended unless you truly have an oversupply, nursing only on one breast at a time per feeding will slowly help your breasts produce less milk, according to the San Diego Breastfeeding Center. This ensures that your baby is getting enough of both foremilk and hindmilk at each feeding, and not only filling up on foremilk from both sides. Slowly, your breasts will adjust to making just enough on each side.
5. Talk To A Professional
As with all breastfeeding related issues, if it's not resolving itself, it's best to seek out help from a lactation consultant in your area.