Why is my breast milk watery? Is it still nutritious enough? - Evidence Based Babie
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why is my breast milk watery

Why is my breast milk watery? Is it still nutritious enough?

Whether you’re a new mom or a well experienced mom, there’s always the possibility of experiencing something new. You may have pumped some breastmilk, whether as a 1-time thing, or because you pump exclusively. You may have noticed that your breastmilk seems watery or even blue in color.

You may be wondering why it’s not white like cow’s milk, or perhaps it used to be white and now it’s suddenly watery. So, what’s going on? Why is your breastmilk watery? Is this watery breastmilk still nutritious enough for your baby?

Why your breastmilk may seem watery

There are many reasons why your breastmilk may seem watery to you.

Human milk is not cow’s milk

When we think of milk, we think of cow’s milk, don’t we? A glass of full cream white milk. But I will remind you that we produce human milk which is not the same as cow’s milk. So never compare them with each other.

It’s warm or humid

Our bodies are so smart that when the weather is more humid or warm, your body will automatically produce more watery breastmilk to help quench your baby’s thirst.

You have an oversupply

This is where the whole foremilk and hindmilk imbalance thing comes in, which is often a widely misunderstood term.

When you have an oversupply, your baby may not be removing the milk quickly enough. This can cause the fat to separate from the rest of your breastmilk and cause it to be watery.

Watery breastmilk is still highly nutritious. But an oversupply can come with many complications for both mother and baby, so it’s best to seek support to get it sorted out as soon as possible to avoid further complications.

Why is my breastmilk blue?

Breastmilk is actually naturally white with a natural bluish tinge to it. This is caused by the presence of casein, one of the proteins in milk. This is often most noticeable at the beginning of a feed or pumping session, especially if your breasts are full as the fat may have separated somewhat.

Yes, there’s still enough fat in your breastmilk, but frequent feeding will ensure the perfect composition every time. Your breastmilk is still very nutritious and essential to your child’s nutrition, health and development.

Casein contains all the essential amino acids, which are necessary for muscle development.

Foremilk vs hindmilk – fact or myth?

Foremilk and hindmilk are very misunderstood terms. It was previously believed that the breast produces two different types of milk, foremilk and hindmilk. Research shows this is not the case. We only produce one type of milk.

Foremilk is the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feed, usually the watery part of the milk, or blue in color, but still has plenty of fat content. Hindmilk is the fatty milk that comes out at the end of a feeding, usually the fat dense part of the milk.

The longer a baby goes without feeding and the fuller your breasts become for a longer period, the more chance the fat has of sticking to the sides of the milk ducts, making your breastmilk more watery.

If you breastfeed or pump frequently, there is no reason for you to be worried about the fat content of your milk. Your baby will be getting exactly what they need and when they need it as your breastmilk is removed as needed and doesn’t have time to separate.

With frequent milk removal, the fat content will be very balanced during the entire feed.

Is watery breastmilk nutritious enough for my baby?

Yes of course. Breastmilk will always be nutritious enough. People often forget that there is so much more to breastmilk composition than just fat. It contains all of the essential vitamins and minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, water and fat. Your baby needs all of these nutrients, not just the fat.

Watery or blue tinged breastmilk is high in most of these essential nutrients, especially protein.

The only time this may cause some issues for your baby is when you struggle with an oversupply and your baby is struggling to keep up and your breasts aren’t drained properly. This can lead to lactose (which is the milk sugars) overload, which can cause some discomfort and complications for your baby.

Oversupply and lactose overload

An oversupply is when your body produces too much milk. More than what your baby needs in a day.

This may cause difficulty for your baby to drain your breasts as needed. When you have an oversupply and your breasts aren’t drained frequently, this can cause the fat to separate from the milk and cause your baby to get too much protein and lactose at a time.

Lactose overload occurs when their body produces more milk than what the baby needs. Infants will fill their stomachs with lactose-rich milk, which is crucial for growth and brain development, but may not get much of the fattier milk.

Fattier milk triggers satiety hormones. So, when an infant isn’t getting enough fat, this may result in hunger and infants that cue often to feed, despite getting adequate amounts of milk.

The amount of lactose in this milk may then overwhelm their digestive ability of their lactase; this lactose then passes into the large intestine where the bacteria have a bit of a party, digesting the lactose and producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

Carbon dioxide causes distention of the large intestine (pain and bloating) and acts like a laxative to draw water into the bowel, leading to loose, frothy diarrhoea.

All of this can lead to some intestine damage, inadequate weight gain (or too much weight gain) or even weight loss.

Signs of an oversupply and/or lactose overload

  • Your breast may feel very full at all times with little improvement after a feeding. It may seem like your baby is struggling to drain your breasts and your breasts may fill back up quickly after a feeding.
  • You may struggle with blocked milk ducts and/or mastitis, it may even be recurrent.
  • Your baby may be fussy at the breast. They may latch and unlatch and seem uneasy at the breast.
  • Your baby may bite or clamp down onto your nipple. They do this in order to slow down or stop the flow when it’s overwhelming them.
  • Your baby may spit up or projectile vomit a lot.
  • Your baby may cough or choke at the breast often and they may arch their backs crying while breastfeeding.
  • Your baby may want to breastfeed very frequently all the time. It may seem like they’re always hungry.
  • You may notice that your baby is very gassy and may have a lot of hiccups.
  • Your baby may be having green, frothy or explosive diapers and there may or may not be blood present.
  • It may feel like every feeding is a struggle and as if your baby doesn’t like the breast or that the breast is causing them discomfort.

The causes of an oversupply

  • You time feeding sessions or feed on a schedule rather than on demand and responsively.
  • You pump or use a silicone pump often when it’s not necessary, or you use it too much.
  • You may be taking herbs or medications that could potentially cause an oversupply.
  • You have a medical condition that can cause an oversupply. Medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid issues or hyperprolactinemia can all cause an oversupply.
  • Your baby was unwell and didn’t feed well for a while, leaving you with too much milk.
  • Your baby suddenly starts sleeping much longer than usual.

What to do about watery breastmilk and an oversupply

You’ll first have to determine the cause of your oversupply and then treat the issue at the root. Your lactation consultant may help with feeding positions or block feeding, depending on the severity. Here are basic things you can do to help.

Breastfeed on demand and responsively

If you’re not stretching out feedings, there’s less risk of experiencing supply issues. It’s always a good idea to feed your baby on early signs of hunger and responsively. Breastfeeding for comfort is a perfectly valid need too.

Do not use galactagogues unless working with a lactation consultant (IBCLC)

Many galactagogues have very little research behind them to prove its effectiveness and safety. But in the instances where it does work, it may cause an oversupply with many other complications for you and your baby.

Do not pump or use a silicone pump unless you have to

Any time you remove milk, you signal your body to produce more milk. So if you’re breastfeeding and you pump unnecessarily and you can’t keep up with it, you may end up with too much milk.

Get help with any medical conditions that may interfere with your milk supply

Medical conditions can often be controlled with the right medications and dosages, which also means it could potentially help stabilize your milk supply. Speak to your doctor for the best possible medical advice regarding your health condition.

Hand express for comfort if your baby sleeps for longer stretches and is drinking less milk at certain times or if they’re feeling unwell

Sometimes when a baby suddenly starts sleeping longer, it may cause the mom a slight temporary oversupply and other issues such as blocked milk ducts and mastitis. Always remember to hand express for comfort when it’s necessary.

Work with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) to help you determine the cause and help with a feeding plan to resolve the oversupply

A lactation consultant (IBCLC) can help you determine any problems related to breastfeeding and can then help you with a feeding plan, a referral or information on what to do to improve breastfeeding for you and your baby.

How to ensure the best quality and quantity breastmilk for your baby

Your breastmilk is always perfect for your baby. Studies have shown that even mothers who live in severe poverty, can still successfully breastfeed their babies. Your body will take what it needs from your body. So, there’s nothing you can do to ensure more nutritious breastmilk, as it is nutritious enough already.

Ensuring that you’re well hydrated and eating all the necessary nutrients, will ensure the best possible milk and milk supply for your baby.

Breastfeed on demand and responsively

When you breastfeed frequently as needed, you have a much-reduced risk of developing an oversupply and struggling with lactose overload.

When the breasts are drained as frequently as the baby needs to, the fat composition will always be optimal.

Don’t pump or use a silicone pump unless necessary

Breastfeed directly as much as possible, unless you’re exclusively pumping or have to pump missed feeds. Breastfeeding your baby and pumping additional feeds will signal your body to produce more milk than what is actually needed.

Silicone pumps do remove milk and can lead to an oversupply with long term use.

Check your medications

Some medications can reduce or increase the milk supply. Always do your research at a trusted resource and talk to your healthcare provider to adjust or change your medications when necessary.

Get treatment for medical conditions

Some medical conditions can reduce or increase the milk supply. Most of these conditions can be controlled with the right medications and dosages. Speak to your healthcare provider about any health concerns that you may have.

Stay well hydrated and follow a healthy diet

Taking care of yourself and ensuring that your body receives the necessary fluids and nutrients it needs will help your body produce enough breastmilk for your baby.

Important notes on watery breastmilk

Breastmilk goes through many changes during the breastfeeding journey. From yellow colostrum, the first milk, to transitional milk, to mature breast milk and to weaning milk. All differing in appearance and composition.

Blue tinged or watery breast milk is normal in most cases. It’s just the protein giving this color. Color changes in breastmilk is very common and normal and can be due to many different factors such as the protein, the fat, and even food dyes.

The only time watery or blue tinged breastmilk may indicate an issue is if you’re struggling with an oversupply and your baby is having a hard time and is showing signs of discomfort such as severe spit up, green stools, loose stools or just plain explosive diapers with a small amount of blood and issues with your baby’s weight gain.

The most common concern breastfeeding moms have is whether their breastmilk is still good enough for their baby. The good news is that all breastmilk is nutritious and important for your baby’s health. No matter the color or consistency. Even small amounts of breastmilk are so valuable to your child’s health.

Try not to worry too much about the color of your breast milk or the fat content of your milk. Your breastmilk composition and breast milk changes to suit the needs of your baby.

If you ever need any help regarding anything breastfeeding related, consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for the best support.

Additional information and resources

Components of human breast milk: from macronutrient to microbiome and microRNA

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