Lots of mums end up worrying about whether or not their baby is getting enough hindmilk. I quite often get asked how long a feed needs to be to make sure the baby gets enough hindmilk, or how many “let downs” are necessary to ensure the baby gets “enough”. I remember worrying about this when I was feeding my baby too. Somewhere along the line I’d got this idea that I had to feed for a certain amount of time to make sure that my baby got “the hindmilk”.
I’ve since learnt that there is not a magic number of minutes that a baby needs to feed for. In general, so long as a baby is being fed on demand, and is being allowed to feed on each breast for as long as he or she wants to, everything is usually working just fine. I often describe breastmilk foremilk and hindmilk like water from a hot tap: When you first turn the tap on, the water is cold. If you let it run, it gradually gets warmer, and a bit warmer, and eventually hot! If you leave the tap for a short while and then come back to it, it doesn’t start off right back at cold, it’s usually still a bit warm, and get’s to hot more quickly. This is how I explain the transition from foremilk to hindmilk. It varies, but the message is that if you let the baby feed for as long as he or she wants to (let the tap run), then your baby will get the lovely high calorie, rich, fattier milk known as hindmilk.
If your baby comes off the breast and then seems quickly unsettled, you can offer the same breast again – your baby may continue to feed from that breast, getting to the high calorie milk. However, sometimes your baby will not seem happy to continue feeding from the same side. If you offer the other side then your baby will get the lighter, thirst quenching milk at the beginning of the feed again, the foremilk. That might be all your baby needs, or they might go through the whole process again until they get to the hindmilk. You can also think of a breastfeed as a delicious 3-course meal: starter, main course and a lovely high calorie dessert. Sometimes, after that lovely rich dessert, a quick refreshing drink is in order 🙂
Try not to worry about whether your baby has had enough hindmilk each feed. Follow his or her cues. Sometimes a little snack or drink is required, sometimes it’s the whole 3 courses! So long as your baby is gaining weigh well, is meeting most developmental milestones, is happy and content, then all is going well.