Foremilk vs. Hindmilk: What's the Difference?

Here’s how foremilk and hindmilk differ—and why baby needs both while breastfeeding.
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Updated July 1, 2024
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If you’re deep in the breastfeeding trenches, you may have heard about foremilk and hindmilk. You may also have learned that it’s important for baby to get the right balance of both—but how can you tell if that’s actually happening?

Let’s clear up something off the bat: “The terms foremilk and hindmilk can be misleading,” says Julie Brill, IBCLC, CCCE, CLD, a lactation consultant in Massachusetts. “Mammals don’t make two different kinds of milk. Rather, over the course of a feed the percentage of fat in milk increases.” She adds that there isn’t a standard amount of fat in human milk: “It varies parent to parent and feed to feed.”

At the beginning of a feed, you release foremilk, which has less fat. This is followed by hindmilk, which typically has a higher fat content, explains Mona Amin, DO, IBCLC, a pediatrician, lactation consultant and Philips Avent partner. “Sometimes [people think] hindmilk is better than foremilk, but that’s not true,” says Amin. “Both types of milk are key for baby’s overall growth and development.”

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between foremilk vs. hindmilk, and how to make sure baby’s getting enough of both while breastfeeding.

What Is Foremilk?

Foremilk—released at the start of a feeding session—is typically thinner and lower in fat content, but higher in lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, says Amin. It’s also often watery and might look bluish or translucent, she adds.

“Foremilk provides quick energy and hydration, facilitating development and filling baby’s immediate energy needs,” says Amin. “It also helps to quench their thirst at the beginning of the feeding session.”

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What Is Hindmilk?

In contrast, hindmilk is released later in a breastfeeding session. It’s richer and creamier because of its higher fat content, says Amin, which makes it vital for baby’s growth: It includes fatty acids that are important for brain development, provides more sustained energy and helps baby feel fuller and more satisfied.

What Is a Foremilk and Hindmilk Imbalance?

When babies get a lot of milk that’s relatively low in fat, Brill says they can end up with more lactose than they can comfortably digest at a time. Amin says that this used to be called a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, but is now referred to as lactose overload. Lactose overload happens in one of two ways, says Amin:

  • Baby receives too much foremilk without enough hindmilk in a feeding
  • A feeding session is too short for baby to receive enough hindmilk, or baby switches breasts too frequently

The fat in hindmilk helps baby’s digestive system slow down and process lactose effectively, Amin explains, so getting too much lactose in a short period of time (without adequate fat) can overwhelm their system. “You’ll likely notice symptoms like gas, frothy green stools and notable discomfort due to the undigested lactose,” she says. The discomfort may cause increased fussiness, irritability or crying, but she warns it can be tricky to differentiate normal newborn fussiness from signs of lactose overload.

If you’re not sure whether baby’s fussiness is caused by digestive discomfort or something else, you can check out their stool. “If baby seems comfortable and is producing yellow, seedy stools, this isn’t a concern,” says Brill. If you still have questions, it’s a good idea to check with baby’s pediatrician.

How to Help Baby Get More Hindmilk

In general, you don’t have to worry about whether baby’s getting enough hindmilk unless you notice signs of lactose overload, says Amin. If that’s the case, there are a few ways to help baby get more fat in their feedings.

  • Nurse frequently and for longer. Brill says more frequent nursing will give baby plenty of opportunities to get hindmilk, as will allowing them to stay on the breast for longer rather than cutting feeds short (or switching breasts too soon).
  • Check your latch. If you don’t have a proper breastfeeding latch, baby may not be able to remove milk as efficiently, says Amin. “There should also be a steady, rhythmic suck and swallow to indicate effective milk transfer,” she says.
  • Massage your breasts. This is more important when pumping than when nursing, says Brill, since babies compress the breast while they’re sucking—but either way, compressing and massaging the breast before and during a feeding can help move fat into the milk and make it more available to baby.
  • Offer one breast per feed. Doing so may help empty the breast more thoroughly, says Amin, although it’s important not to forget about your other breast and switch to it for the next feed.
  • Pump first. Pumping a small amount of milk before a breastfeeding session can eliminate some of the initial foremilk, making it easier for baby to get to the hindmilk, says Amin. However, it’s best to work with a lactation consultant before going this route: “It’s very important to avoid pumping too much, as this can lead to an oversupply of milk or make baby feel full too quickly,” Amin says. “The goal is to pump just enough to help baby reach the hindmilk without disrupting the natural feeding process.”

If you’re concerned about whether baby’s getting enough hindmilk vs foremilk—or their digestive comfort—be sure to reach out to a lactation consultant for help.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.


Mona Amin, DO, IBCLC, is a pediatrician, lactation consultant and Philips Avent partner. She’s also the host of the PedsDocTalk Podcast. She earned her medical degree from A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona.

Julie Brill, IBCLC, CCCE, CLD, is a lactation consultant, childbirth educator and doula in Massachusetts.

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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