Overview of Breastfeeding and Foremilk

Mother breastfeeding baby
Getty Images Credit:  Camille Tokerud 

Foremilk is the breast milk your baby gets at the beginning of each feeding when your breasts are full. Foremilk is high in lactose (milk sugar) and low in fat and calories. It's thin, watery, and it looks white or bluish.

Foremilk, Hindmilk, and Alternating Breasts

When you place your baby on your breast to start breastfeeding, she begins to drink foremilk. As your baby nurses, the low-fat foremilk slowly changes over to high-fat, high-calorie breast milk called hindmilk. Then, when your baby stops breastfeeding on the first side and you switch to the other breast, your baby once again starts drinking foremilk. The amount of hindmilk your baby gets on the second side depends on how long your baby nurses on that side. If your baby drains both breasts each time he breastfeeds, he will get both foremilk and hindmilk from both breasts.

Overabundant Milk Supply and Too Much Foremilk

If you have an overabundant supply of breast milk, you can have an excessive amount of foremilk. This is especially true if you offer both breasts each time you breastfeed because your baby will get mostly foremilk on the first side, then switch over to the other side and get even more foremilk. Since your breast milk doesn't change into hindmilk until a few minutes into the feeding, if you have an oversupply of breast milk it's better to let your baby fully drain one breast to get some of the hindmilk before switching over to the other breast.

What's so Bad About Getting Too Much Foremilk?

Foremilk is thinner and may fill your baby up but not satisfy him for very long. Babies who drink only foremilk tend to nurse more often, and they can end up overeating

Too much foremilk is also believed to cause stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) issues in babies. The extra sugar from all that foremilk can cause symptoms such as gas, abdominal pain, irritability, crying, and loose, green bowel movements. You may even think that your baby has colic.

What Can You Do if Your Baby Is Getting Too Much Foremilk?

If you have an overabundant milk supply and your baby is showing signs of too much foremilk, you want to attempt to get your baby to take more hindmilk at each feeding. Along with speaking to your baby's doctor, here's how you can try to correct this situation:

  1. Pump or express some foremilk out of your breasts for a minute or two before you begin breastfeeding. By removing some of the foremilk in advance, you can help your baby get to your hindmilk during the feeding. Pumping before breastfeeding also helps to soften the breasts and slow down a fast flow of breast milk. Hard breasts and a fast flow are other common issues that occur with overabundant milk supply.
  2. Breastfeed from only one side during each feeding. When you nurse from only one side, your baby will get foremilk at the beginning of the feeding and continue on that same side to get the high-calorie, filling hindmilk at the end of the feeding.
  3. Let your baby stay on the first side for as long as she wants. Don't set a time limit for your baby to breastfeed. Let your baby stay at the breast for as long as it takes for her to feel full and satisfied.
  4. If, after a feeding, your baby begins to cry or show signs of hunger in a short period of time, place your baby back on the same breast that you just breastfed on. Your baby will get more hindmilk if you put your baby back on the breast that he just nursed on. If you switch to the other breast, your baby will get once again get foremilk.

    If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding and foremilk, talk to your doctor, your baby's doctor, a lactation consultant or a local breastfeeding group for more information and assistance. 

    Was this page helpful?

    Article Sources

    • Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2011.

    • Riordan, J, Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

    • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.