Fat is an important macronutrient in an infant’s diet. Aside from being the major energy source in breast milk, fats and their metabolites aid in a baby’s brain development and growth. But, the amount of fat in human breast milk varies throughout the day (1).
This alternation of breast milk fat levels is common and nothing to be worried about. However, there are ways to determine if your baby is receiving adequate fat from breast milk. In this post, we have written about the same and how to increase fat in breast milk.
What Is The Average Fat And Calorie Content In Breast Milk?
The human breast milk composition undergoes subtle changes with each feed to meet the infant’s developmental needs. However, on average, the calorie and fat content ranges are as follows (2).
kcal = kilocalories, dL = deciliter (1dL = 100ml)
Source: Australian Breastfeeding Association
What Are The Different Types Of Fat Present In Breast Milk?
The type of fat present in breast milk is dependent on the maternal diet. These fats may include (3) (4) (5):
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acid (docosahexaenoic (DHA) and arachidonic (ARA)) acids, and omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic and arachidonic acids)
- Monounsaturated fatty acids
What Are The Factors That Influence Fat In Breast Milk?
The following factors affect the fat composition in breast milk.
1. Emptiness of the breast: The amount of fat usually fluctuates based on the emptiness of the breast. The emptier the breast, the higher is the fat content. Moreover, hindmilk (the milk that comes towards the end) is richer in fat than foremilk (first-released milk) (3) (6).
2. Time of the feed: Breast milk released during the evenings and nights may usually have more fat content. It occurs due to the gradual accumulation of fat in the milk throughout the day. Babies may feed less frequently during the day since they nap, providing them with milk with more fat content in the evening and night (7) (8).
3. Nutritional status of the mother: The types and amount of fat a mother consumes pass on to the infant through the milk. Therefore, it is essential that nursing mothers consume foods with healthy fatty acid composition.
What Are The Ways To Increase Fat And Nutrients In Breast Milk?
The following steps may help you increase the fat and nutrient content of breast milk.
1. Empty an entire breast
Ensure that your baby finishes the milk from one breast before switching to the other side. The baby will get the watery foremilk and fat-rich hindmilk. If you switch to the other side, your breasts may fill with foremilk again, reducing its overall fat content. In case you need to switch, use a breast pump to store the hindmilk and feed the baby later.
2. Massage the breasts
Gentle breast compression before and during feed may help move the fattier milk forward and clear the milk ducts (9). It may also help empty the breast better and improve its fat content. You may read more about breast or lactation massage here.
3. Consume a balanced diet
A healthy maternal fat intake could help ensure that breast milk has healthy fat content and quality. The adequate monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid content in breast milk could help in the baby’s brain development. In addition, the consumption of lean meat, egg, flaxseed, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, soybean, and fatty fish could improve the nutritional quality of human breast milk (10).
Why Is Breast Milk Important For Your Baby?
Breast milk provides the required amounts of nutrients that an infant needs for healthy weight gain and development. It is the best food for babies since it is easy to digest and customized as per their nutritional needs.
Breast milk is slightly thick and nutrient-dense during the initial three to four days after birth. In addition, this type of milk, called the colostrum, is rich in immunological components such as lactoferrin, antibodies, and leukocytes that help reduce the risk of several common childhood illnesses in breastfed infants (3) (11). Breast milk also has several psychological benefits as it helps the mothers and infants bond. The hormone oxytocin released during breastfeeding naturally calms the nursing mother and the infant (12).
Altering fat content in human milk is nothing to be concerned about. Instead, observe your breast milk pattern and your baby’s fullness to grasp an idea of whether your baby is well-fed or not. Maintaining a journal on the infant’s feeding patterns and breast emptiness and visiting a lactation consultant could help you better understand your breast milk’s fat content.
- S.C. Hardy and R.E., Kleinman Fat And Cholesterol In The Diet Of Infants And Young Children: Implications For Growth, Development, And Long-Term Health.
- Breastmilk Composition.
https://www.breast feeding .asn.au/bfinfo/breastmilk-composition
- Olivia Ballard and Ardythe L. Morrow, Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors.
- R. Jenness, The Composition Of Human Milk.
- Koletzko. B, Human Milk Lipids.
- S. E. Daly et al., Degree Of Breast Emptying Explains Changes In The Fat Content, But Not Fatty Acid Composition, Of Human Milk.
- Breastfeeding At Night.
https://www.laleche.org.uk/breast feeding -at-night/
- Worries About Foremilk And Hindmilk.
https://breast feeding usa.org/content/article/worries-about-foremilk-and-hind milk
- Breast Massage.
- Sandra L. Huffman et al., Essential Fats: How Do They Affect Growth And Development Of Infants And Young Children In Developing Countries? A Literature Review.
- The Importance Of Breastfeeding.
- Kathleen M. Krol and Tobias Grossmann, Psychological Effects Of breast feeding On Infants And Mothers.