Fore- to Hindmilk – It’s like turning on the hot water tap …


I’ve written before about feeding to baby’s cues, whether you are breastfeeding or have chosen artificial substitutes. In this post, I will look at the mechanics of breastfeeding, particularly the illusive fore- and hindmilk. Regular readers and clients will know I like imagery, so for this post we are going to dive into the world of …. plumbing!

We are assuming that the tap is connected to the mains and the pipes are clear of any obstructions, i.e. Mammogenisis and Lactogenisis have taken place, milk production is in full normal swing.

There’s two kinds of water, hot and cold … What? They are not two kinds, you say? They are the same water, just at different temperatures? Aha! Damn right they are. Same with breastmilk. Whether it’s Colostrum, watery milk, fattier milk, morning milk, evening milk – it’s all breastmilk. Just in slightly different compositions, to meet different needs and suit different purposes.

Lets look then at how we get to the hot water. When you turn on the hot water tap, you get some cold water first. You let it run and gradually it’ll get a wee bit less cold, luke warm, warm, very warm and eventually hot. Gradually being the magic word. Breastmilk does that too. There’s no secret switch that turns water from cold to hot after x amount of time. Just like there’s no such switch that turns watery milk into fatty milk. It’s a gradual process and how long it takes to get to full on fatty milk depends on several factors.

So we’ve had enough hot water, let’s switch the tap off. A few hours later, we switch it back on. And again, there’s some cold water first. Switch it off again. Next time, you switch it back on a few minutes later. And there’s no cold water! It goes straight to luke warm and is hot in a matter of seconds. Leave it off a few hours and you are back to waiting longer for the hot water. Turn the tap on every couple of minutes and there’s very little to no waiting. Breastmilk does that too. The less time there is between feeds for a small baby, the less chance fatty components have to stick to the milk ducts. The more time there is between feeds, the less fatty components there will be at the beginning of the feed.

You’ve probably noticed that you wait longer for the hot water in some houses than in others. Or in different rooms in your own house. In this house, the kitchen tap turns hot much quicker than the bathroom tap. Breasts do this too. No two women or even two breasts are the same.

Clocks don’t allow for any of the above… Suggestions like “switch sides after x minutes” or “stop feeds after y minutes” or “only feed every z hours” don’t allow for that either. In fact, they are usually counterproductive.

This is, of course, rather simplistic. I have two articles linked on my breastfeeding resources page that explain these mechanics in some and a lot more detail (and there’s great pictures too!). If you are mindful of and respond to your baby’s feeding cues and don’t use artificial substitutes to subdue these cues, you can’t go wrong. If you’d like to learn more about feeding cues and normal infant (feeding) behaviour, you are very welcome to book an Antenatal Breastfeeding Session with me xx

milk tap cover pic (c):

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