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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

What is lactose overload?

(Sometimes incorrectly known as “foremilk/hindmilk imbalance”) Let's unravel a breastfeeding mystery today: the terms "foremilk" and "hindmilk." Don't worry, it's not as complex as it might sound!

When it comes to nursing, you might have come across these terms. But here's the deal: they're not talking about two different types of milk. It's all about how the fat content changes in your milk during a feeding session.

"Foremilk" is what your baby gets when they start feeding, and "hindmilk" is what follows in the later part of the feeding. Now, here's the twist – "foremilk" isn't always low in fat. The amount of fat actually depends on how much time has passed since your baby's previous feed.

Now, let's zoom in on how this fat story affects your baby's tummy. Fat influences how fast milk moves through your baby's digestive system. If your baby gets a good dose of milk with lower fat, it can rush through their tummy faster than their little belly can handle. This can lead to some belly discomfort and fermentation – something we'd like to prevent.

In a nutshell, "foremilk" and "hindmilk" are simply terms used to describe how the fat content changes in your breast milk during a feeding. No need to think of them as two separate milks! And remember, the fat content decides the speed of milk digestion in your baby's tummy, so finding the right balance is key.

Understanding these little insights can help you make informed choices for your baby's tummy comfort and overall well-being. How do I tell if a baby has lactose overload?

The symptoms are very specific: GREEN, FROTHY, EXPLOSIVE stools, FLATULENCE (gas) and significant PAIN (a lot of screaming, not just occasional complaining).

There are several other reasons why a baby might have a green stool, including insufficient total milk intake, illness, medication/supplements and allergy. A green stool ALONE (without flatulence/pain) is not indicative of lactose overload. In a thriving, comfortable baby, an occasional green stool can safely be ignored. What is the remedy for lactose overload? All that may be required is to deepen attachment and encourage the baby to feed for as long as they want on each breast.

Laid-back or side-lying positioning can help a baby to manage a fast milk flow.

More frequent feeds can help a baby take in manageable amounts and avoid build-up of large volumes of relatively “lower-fat milk”.

Use gentle breast compressions when suckling slows down to keep milk flowing and help baby finishing a feed on one side before moving to the next side

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