Why Am I Only Pumping Foremilk? The Answer Is Actually A Little Complicated
Breastfeeding is lauded for making your life simpler and being the healthiest option for both you and your baby. But for some women, unforeseen complications make it much more difficult than they were expecting. If you've added pumping to your schedule as well, you might have noticed that your milk seems thin and light, lacking the thick and creamy aspect that breastmilk has. If you're frustratedly asking yourself, "why am I only pumping foremilk," you're not alone, as having a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance is a worry that plagues most nursing moms at some point.
Before getting into specifics though, learning the difference between foremilk and hindmilk will help you understand the nature of the problem. According to La Leche League International (LLLI), it's a common misconception that breastmilk is made up of two different kinds of milk — foremilk and hindmilk. However, the milk making cells only produce one kind of milk but the hindilk — the fatty, nutrient rich milk that collects in the ducts the longest — has a thicker appearance. Foremilk — the thin milk that hasn't accumulated as many fat proteins — sits at the front of the ducts and, therefore, is removed first when you're breastfeeding or pumping.
For women who only see foremilk when they're pumping, it makes sense to worry that you aren't producing the fuller fat milk, but that's not the case. More than likely, there are two explanations for what could be happening in situations like these.
The first explanation is that you're not pumping long enough to get to the "hindmilk." Balanced Breastfeeding noted that since hindmilk sits further back in the duct, it's harder to draw out. The foremilk, on the other hand, is easily expressed and comes out first after letdown, so if you don't pump long enough to reach the hindmilk, you'll only see the milk that first exits the breast. Try pumping for longer intervals, ensuring that you experience letdown at each session, to make sure you're pumping enough to get to the good stuff.
The other explanation for not seeing the hindmilk is that you actually have an oversupply of breastmilk. Although an oversupply is rare, it can happen from pumping too often, or simply because your body produces milk on overdrive.
According to Breastmilk Counts, if your breasts constantly feel full and engorged, you have a forceful letdown, or if your baby eats and is hungry again right away you may have an oversupply. The same Breastmilk Counts article suggested that moms with an oversupply try out block feeding (nursing only on one side every two to four hours,) switching up positions that might slow the flow of your breastmilk, and breaking your baby's suction during letdown so they're able to get more of the fuller fat milk and remain fuller longer.
Whatever the case may be, you don't have to worry that you're not producing hindmilk, you only need to know how to best access it.