Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies, providing them with all the essential nutrients and antibodies they need for healthy growth and development. Occasionally, breastfeeding moms encounter concerns about the consistency or perceived low fat content of their breast milk. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about. However if you’re looking for ways to naturally thicken your breast milk, this article provides valuable insights and practical tips on how to just that.
How Can I Thicken Breast Milk Naturally?
In order to thicken breast milk naturally, or increase the fat content, it’s important for all breastfeeding moms to understand the composition of breast milk. Breast milk is a complex and dynamic fluid that naturally adapts to meet the needs of a growing baby. It consists of several components, including water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and immune-boosting substances. The thickness of breast milk can vary naturally depending on factors such as your stage of lactation, time of day, hydration levels, your diet and your baby’s nursing frequency.
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Breast milk is composed of two different types of milk: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the milk that is released at the beginning of a breastfeeding session. It’s thinner and more watery in consistency compared to hindmilk. Foremilk is high in carbohydrates (lactose, or milk sugar), proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It also serves as a thirst quencher for your baby.
After foremilk comes hindmilk. Hindmilk is thicker and creamier in consistency due to its higher fat content. It’s rich in calories which satiates your baby’s hunger. It also provides necessary energy for growth and development.
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The transition from foremilk to hindmilk occurs gradually during a breastfeeding session. It is important for the baby to receive both types of milk. Adequate time spent on each breast allows the baby to access the hindmilk, which is richer in fat and provides important nutrients. If you’re wanting to thicken breast milk naturally, you can try increasing the amount of hindmilk you pump or express.
Related article: Drop in Milk Supply 4 Months & How to Fix It!
5 Natural Ways to Thicken Breast Milk
While breast milk naturally provides the ideal nutrition for your baby–and you shouldn’t stress if you feel that your breast milk isn’t thick enough–you can try the following natural methods to potentially enhance its thickness:
1. Breast Compressions to Thicken Breast Milk Naturally
During breastfeeding, you can try breast compression techniques to increase the fat content of your milk and encourage your baby to consume the hindmilk. The milk that is released via breast compressions tends to have a higher fat content. In order to perform breast compressions while breastfeeding or pumping:
- Start by ensuring a proper latch and comfortable breastfeeding position for both you and your baby. If you are pumping, ensure that your are using the correct flange size and a comfortable pumping bra (see our favorites here).
- Allow the baby to begin nursing, and once they have established a rhythm, place your hand on the breast that the baby is feeding from. If you are pumping, you can place your hand on both breasts once your milk has begun flowing.
- Gently squeeze or compress the breast using your hand, applying a moderate amount of pressure. Avoid pressing too hard to prevent discomfort or hindering milk flow.
- Maintain the compression while the baby continues to nurse or for the duration of your pump session. Release the compression and then reapply as needed during the feeding session.
- Switch breasts as usual and repeat the breast compression technique on the other breast if desired.
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2. Adjusting Nursing Or Pumping Technique
Optimizing the way your baby latches onto your breast can improve the flow and composition of breast milk. Ensure that your baby is latching effectively, taking in a good amount of breast tissue, which can enhance fat intake. If your baby has a bad latch, they aren’t able to transfer milk effectively and may not be receiving enough hindmilk. A proper latch ensures efficient milk transfer, allowing the baby to access both foremilk and hindmilk.
If you are pumping, make sure that you are using the correct breast pump flange size. Using the wrong flange size can lead to a lower milk output and cause damage to your nipples. See our articles Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output? Yes, Here’s How and Determining Your Correct Flange Size (So Pumping Doesn’t Hurt!) for information on how to know if you are using the correct size. Also, ensure that you are using the correct settings on your breast pump. The suction should be strong enough that milk is flowing, but not so strong as to be uncomfortable. Pumping should not be painful. And, finally, make sure you are using a quality, comfortable pumping bra. See our Top 5 Best Hands Free Pumping Bras According to Pumping Moms for help choosing one.
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3. Cluster Feeding or Power Pumping
Encourage cluster feeding, where your baby feeds more frequently over a shorter period. While cluster feeding does not directly thicken breast milk naturally, it can contribute to your baby’s access to and intake of hindmilk by:
- Increasing stimulation of your breasts, thereby telling your body to produce more milk. With a higher milk supply, there is a greater volume of milk available for your baby to consume, including both foremilk and hindmilk.
- Encouraging efficient milk removal by allowing your baby to drain your breasts more thoroughly. When your baby feeds more frequently and for longer durations during cluster feeding, they have better access to the hindmilk-rich milk towards the end of the feeding.
If you are pumping, try mimicking cluster feeding by power pumping. See our guide the Pros and Cons of Power Pumping – Everything You Need to Know for instructions on how to power pump breast milk.
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4. Eating a Balanced Diet
While there is no specific food that can directly increase the fat content of breast milk, a well-balanced diet can support overall milk production and quality. Adequate fat intake is important for the composition of breast milk, and consuming certain nutrient-rich foods can indirectly thicken breast milk naturally. Here are some food options that may help:
Including healthy fats in your diet can potentially enhance the fat content of breast milk. Incorporate foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish like salmon into your meals. We prefer to do this in the form of delicious snacks. Here’s the recipes for our favorites:
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Oats and Barley
Whole grains like oats and barley are not only nutritious but may also help support milk production and quality. They contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that may increase prolactin levels, a hormone involved in milk production. We have a few oatmeal recipes here on Work Breast Feed mom that encourage milk supply:
- Lactation Oatmeal: The 4 Staple Recipes Every Breastfeeding Mom Should Know How to Make!
- Oatmeal Banana Bread: Lactation Oatmeal With A Twist
- Baked Oatmeal: The Lactation Version
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Flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the overall nutrition of breast milk. Consider adding ground flaxseeds or chia seeds to smoothies, cereals, or baked goods. We’ve found that Amazon is the cheapest place to buy quality seeds. Here’s our favorite flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Fenugreek and fennel seeds have also traditionally been used to promote breast milk production and potentially enhance milk quality. These herbs can be consumed in the form of herbal teas or added to dishes, or are available in supplement form for breastfeeding moms. This supplement from Pure Co available on Amazon combines both fenugreek and fennel seed with milk thistle to promote breast milk supply.
See our article How to Increase Breast Milk Supply (Fast!) for a deeper dive into lactation supplements.
Some traditional lactogenic foods are believed to support milk production and potentially increase fat content. These include foods like garlic, brewer’s yeast, almonds, sesame seeds, and dark leafy greens. Incorporating these foods into your diet may be beneficial, but individual results may vary. Our lactation oatmeal recipes listed above include brewer’s yeast.
Including adequate protein in your diet can support milk production and overall nutrition. Opt for lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, legumes, tofu, and dairy products.
While breast milk naturally provides the ideal nutrition for babies, we understand that some moms are interested in natural ways to thicken breast milk for various reasons. It’s important to remember that breast milk composition varies naturally, and slight changes in thickness do not necessarily indicate a problem. However, by incorporating the aforementioned techniques, you can support optimal breastfeeding and ensure your baby receives the nutrients they need for healthy development.
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