People who say not to cry over spilled milk have obviously never breastfed their baby, cramming in extra snacks and water and pumping religiously only to drop a bottle while you fumble for the lid. So, when you open the fridge later and notice that bottle of milk looks a little thin, you might feel that same upset feeling rising. Why does my breast milk look watery? Do I have to dump this out? Can I feed watery breast milk to my baby?
Why Does Breast Milk Look Watery Sometimes?
Here’s the good thing: watery breast milk is normal, and it’s perfectly safe and healthy for your little one. Just like the dairy products we consume, breast milk is made up of different components that settle and separate.
“Breast milk can separate when stored,” Maureen McCormick, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, tells Romper. “Usually, the fat will rise to the top and milk will appear thin and watery at the bottom. Sometimes it can look clumpy as well. This does not mean it is bad. Remember if milk appears separated in the refrigerator, gently swirl — don’t shake — the bottle before giving it to the baby.”
It’s also OK if your breast milk has a colorful tint.
“As the milk sits on the counter, fat will rise to the top, and the portion containing more water, lactose, proteins, and water-soluble vitamins will settle on the bottom of the bottle and look relatively translucent,” says Lynnette Hafken, MA, IBCLC, director of support services for the Fed Is Best Foundation and author of safebreastfeeding.org, in an interview with Romper. “Milk should never look perfectly clear. Tinges of pink, green, and yellow happen sometimes based on the mother’s diet, but by and large, human milk is pale white.”
Watery Breast Milk While Breastfeeding Is Normal, Too
Moms may also notice their milk looks thin or watery while breastfeeding. La Leche League International explains that foremilk — the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feed — tends to be waterier than hindmilk, which is the portion of milk baby gets at the end of a feed. Here’s what happens:
“As milk is made, fat sticks to the sides of the milk-making cells and the watery part of the milk moves down the ducts toward your nipple, where it mixes with any milk left there from the last feed. The longer the time between feeds, the more diluted the leftover milk becomes. This ‘watery’ milk has a higher lactose content and less fat than the milk stored in the milk-making cells higher up in your breast.”
Their website goes on to say that even if you notice your breast milk is watery at the beginning of feeding your baby, it’s no reason to worry. Babies will still get enough fat when allowed to eat until they’re full.
“Changes in milk color and clarity usually reflect the amount of fat that is in the milk, with milk expressed from a full breast being paler white or even bluish, like skim milk, and milk expressed from an emptier breast looking more opaque white,” adds Hafken.
So, don’t worry too much if your breast milk has never looked watery before but is starting to appear thin at times. Your body is making exactly what your baby needs to keep growing, giggling, and keeping you on your toes.
Maureen McCormick, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center