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How to raise the fat content of your breast milk

I don’t know if you’re like me… but if you’re searching for information about how to raise or increase the fat content of your breastmilk, I’m guessing we have some things in common.

Trust Your Breast Milk

When you’re feeding your baby directly from your breast, you never see the milk. You just have to trust that it’s exactly what your baby needs, how much your baby needs, that it’s enough.

You count diapers – how many pee diapers per day, how many poops. You watch your child’s developmental signs, his satisfaction after nursing. You listen for swallowing sounds, but aside from that… you just have to trust.

But as soon as you start pumping, for whatever reason – maybe you’re going back to work, or preparing for a date night, or pumping to build up a small emergency stash so you won’t have to rely on formula if “something” happens – as soon as you can SEE your breastmilk, that trust can be shaken.

Especially if you’ve seen some of your friends’ breastmilk, or pictures of breast milk online.

Do I have low fat or skim breastmilk?

Check out this photo, which I found at Biomarkers & Milk.

do i have skim or low fat breast milk?

Figure 1: Milk samples (1.5 mL) from 3 different mothers allowed to separate to show the variation in milk fat. Photo: EA Quinn/Biomarkers & Milk.

These are milk samples from three different women, allowed to separate. Breast milk may contain, on average, 22 calories per ounce, but I can tell you from experience (I have many breastfeeding friends, and have received donor milk from different mothers for my first son to help us through some issues), many mothers have super-creamy milk which separates to reveal a thick layer of fat in the fridge, while others have much lower-fat content.

Mine often looks like skim milk… barely creating a layer of fat on the top at all.

And when you’re one of the lower-fat-milk mamas, it can be hard to get that image out of your head, especially when you’re wondering, “Is my baby getting enough breastmilk?” Or “Is my baby getting enough calories when he nurses?”

Ways to increase fat content in breast milk

So, when my first son was tiny, as I was helping him recover from very slow gaining and failure to thrive due to tongue tie and lip tie (causing him to swallow air and spit up nearly everything he ate), I wanted my milk to give him as many calories as possible, along with supplementation from donor milk.

I figured his stomach could only hold so much at a time, so why not try to make it as fatty and caloric as possible?

And I looked, and looked… searching for ways to increase the fat content of my breastmilk, and I didn’t find anything useful.

What I knew was that the “first milk” or foremilk is less fatty, more like a drink to quench a baby’s thirst, and that the later milk, or hindmilk, is creamer, more like a meal for the baby, to satisfy hunger.

Another way of saying that is that full breasts produce less-fatty milk, while “empty” breasts produce more-fatty milk.

I wondered if I could change my diet to make my milk creamier… but all I found was that mamas can change the TYPE of fat in their milk based on their diet, but not the quantity.

So, I ate bunches of this coconut oil fudge, to increase the amount of lauric and capric  fatty acids in my milk. But still, when I pumped, I could tell the fat CONTENT hadn’t gone up.

How frustrating, right?

Back to the issue of foremilk versus hindmilk… it became obvious to me that the only way to get more fat out of my breasts and into my baby would be to increase his intake of hindmilk. (Or when pumping, increase the amount of hindmilk expressed.)

I tried breast compressions, massage, heat compresses, hands-on pumping techniques. All designed to remove milk more completely from the breasts, and get more hindmilk into the baby.

And maybe it helped a little bit, but since then I’ve found one particular trick that has allowed me to pump and empty more completely, to keep my baby gulping at breast longer, and to increase the fat quantity of my breastmilk.

Whereas before, my milk fat was only ever a thin layer on the very top when my milk separated in the fridge, now I have a much thicker cream layer in my milk. It’s SO EXCITING.

What’s the trick?

It’s the same trick used by breastfeeding moms who experience clogged ducts or mastitis, when simply nursing or massaging the breasts doesn’t get the clog out.

It’s a simple supplement that can be bought on Amazon easily, for less than $10 for a month’s supply.

It’s sunflower lecithin.

Sunflower lecithin helps unclog ducts that are “stuck” by making the milk more “slippery,” by emulsifying the fatty bits with the watery bits of breastmilk.

Dr. Jack Newman, world-renowed Canadian doctor who specializes in breastfeeding support and advocacy says,

Lecithin is a food supplement that seems to help some mothers prevent blocked ducts. It may do this by decreasing the viscosity (stickiness) of the milk by increasing the percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the milk. It is safe to take, relatively inexpensive, and seems to work in at least some mothers. The dose is 1200 mg four times a day.

Got that? Lecithin increases the percentage of certain fatty acids in the milk.

I’m guessing because it makes the milk “more slippery” that part of how it has increased the fat content of my milk is simply by making it easier to empty my breasts when I feed or pump.

It’s just easier for the hind-milk to come out. The fattier milk.

While massage, heat, and hands-on pumping will definitely encourage things to go in the right direction, adding Sunflower Lecithin has been the thing that has made the most noticeable increase in the fat content of my milk, personally.

I take one capsule, 3-4 times a day, so one bottle will last me a month. The Now brand of Sunflower Lecithin is non-GMO, soy-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, and contains no preservatives. So, in my opinion, a much better alternative to soy lecithin, which some breastfeeding mamas choose to use.

The pills are large, but not difficult to take, since they’re not super wide at any point (like some prenatal vitamins are).

And since it’s an emulsifier, some people put the lecithin into smoothies or drinks, saying it makes the result much smoother because the fatty bits and watery bits of the drink don’t separate as easily.

Think bulletproof coffee! One reviewer on Amazon wrote:

I became a fan of these and use it two capsules as follows: 1 quart of your favorite coffee brew, two NOW Sunflower Lecithin capsules, two tablespoons of coconut oil, add sweetener and half and half.

I cut the ends off the capsules and squeeze out the contents into the blender along with other ingredients. Blend at high for 30 – 60 seconds and pour into coffee mugs. There will be a layer of frothed coconut oil at the top which is absolutely delicious.

The lecithin doesn’t have much taste, if anything it is reminiscent of sunflower seeds and doesn’t alter the coffee flavor much if at all. The emulsifier acts to keep the oil and coffee from separating and creates an incredible mouth feel. A very enjoyable way to get Phosphatidyl CholineA!

I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m definitely going to, along with a few drops of hazelnut stevia or vanilla stevia. Sounds good to me! (Yes, I drink coffee while nursing – I only ever drink Equal Exchange decaf at home.)

If you give the Sunflower Lecithin a try to raise the fat content of your breastmilk, please let me know how it works for you! I hope you see great results the way I have.

Products mentioned in this post are:

56 Comments on How to Raise the Fat Content of Breastmilk

  1. Rebecca says:

    Does it matter if you take the pill for or powder?.

  2. TR W says:

    I actually found this months ago, and then “lost” it, and tried finding it again to come post about my success with Sunflower Lecithin, and couldn’t find it again until now. My baby was born in January 2017. She lost 9% in 2 days. I had similar problems with my first daughter losing so much that they made me supplement after two weeks. When that happened, I was able to pump enough to get her completely on breastmilk, but it wasn’t easy. This time, luckily, when they told me after two days I needed to supplement, I was able to supplement with donor milk. I was a wreck. I nursed my first daughter for THREE years!! I thought my body would just know what to do this time. I am basically a vegan too (not strict, but a vegetarian that stays away from milk and cheese if I can avoid it), but I am in no way lacking in the “fat content” area. I can’t remember when I found your post, but my mother went out and bought the Sunflower Lecithin for me that day. I began taking one of those HUGE pills three or four times a day religiously. I changed nothing else. My baby began gaining weight immediately. She actually became a “chubby baby” with cute little rolls and everything. The next time I took her for a “well checkup”, the pediatrician came in with animated gestures asking what I did. She said she had to go back into the computer a second time and look to make sure I hadn’t started her on formula because of the jump in weight from the last time I had been there. And I told her… SUNFLOWER LECITHIN. She said “that’s it?”! Yes… that’s it. Not only did my baby gain weight, but she was sleepy and satisfied after nursing. My first daughter was on my breast constantly, and even when I knew she would get a lion’s share of milk, she never seemed satisfied. Seeing the picture in your story, I KNOW I had skim milk with her.

    Some of you have asked questions that I feel like I can answer now because of how long I’ve been taking it (which, yes… I still am… it is SO worth it). So, after taking the two or three bottles that my mother bought for me, (purchased at Whole Foods… I was so grateful they had them on the shelf), I ran out. I can’t remember why, but I think I knew I wasn’t going to get out soon or something, so I went online looking for them. I found one and sent the link to my husband (because I was busy with the baby, and he was great at doing that type of stuff for me). When it came in the mail, however, it was soy lecithin instead. I figured “same thing, right?”. NOPE. After a couple of days of those, I noticed an immediate difference. I could tell I wasn’t as full, she wasn’t getting as much, the whole thing. I saddled up and went that day and bought some more, and within the day or two, things were back to normal.

    I did taper off after a while from 3-4 to 2 per day, but it’s a year later, and I still take them. Thank you, Thank you for posting!!! I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew after this experience. This should be commonly known around those who deliver. It’s getting late, and I have to wrap up.

  3. Jen says:

    My let down is pretty intense already… will this make it even harder for my baby to not choke?

  4. Alicia says:

    I tried to leave a comment but it said it couldn’t be processed – my apologies if this ends up a duplicate but wondering if anyone has tried baking with this and if so, if it still affects lactation in the same way? Considering adding this to my lactation cookies 🙂

  5. Alicia says:

    Hi there! I am expecting my baby next month and always have trouble with skim breast milk/low supply the first few months of nursing. I was so excited to find this article and went out to the health food store to find some, but all they had was powdered form. The clerk recommended mixing it into shakes as you did, but I was wondering if anyone has tried baking with it (?) I’m planning to make some lactation cookies with brewers yeast and was considering adding some of this into them. I just haven’t been able to find anything online to tell me if baking/heating it could make it less effective. And it’s kind of expensive, so I don’t want to waste it if it’s a fail! Anyone??

  6. Moroj says:

    Thank you for your post and i hope it works for me..
    I have one question, can i take the sunflower lecthin liquid instead of the capsules?? Will it lead to the same result??!

  7. […] of supplementing, check out how this mom raised the fat content of her milk.  I wish I had seen this in the early days of my breastfeeding experiences… I totally would […]

  8. Lacey says:

    What is the side effects on the baby? Is there any upset stomach, increase in gas, or fussiness related to taking it? Just curious. Thanks

    • Nancy says:

      I’ve used it since the day i came home with my daughter. She’s 7 months now and I’ve not noticed any side effects of taking Lecithin. I only take it twice a day not 4 and i exclusively pump. I normal fill her bottle with hindmilk until about 4oz then top it off with the foremilk. She’s healthy. No issues. Hope this answer helps.

    • Lea says:

      I realize this is an old comment, but lecithin is actually super good for digestion. I’ve had chronic gallbladder issues which cause acid stomach and lecithin makes a huge difference! It helps the liver digest fats properly. And it’s a superfood for your brain!!! I have both softgels, liquid and granules, all Now brand sunflower non-gmo, and I put a dash in lots of things. Can’t sing it’s praises enough!
      Thanks for this article, I was looking to increase fat of breastmilk as I’m due in July and while my other babies while healthy, they were a tad on the scrawny side. Always tall, but never chubby, and fussy and discontent. This is great help!!!!

  9. Bridgette Tedder says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! Prior to taking sunflower lecithin I would get an almost paper thin layer of fat on top and now it is quite substantial. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site. And I would definitely recommend giving sunflower lecithin a try to other mothers producing skim/low fat milk.

  10. Hannah K says:

    Emily, Thank you for this post! My baby isn’t gaining enough to keep our pediatrician satisfied so I’ve been supplementing with formula for the last week but my son still isn’t gaining even the minimum. I am going to try this for the next week before his next weigh in (without the supplementation) and see if that makes a difference. Will try to post an update.

    My question is this: What does taking sunflower lecithin look like long term? Do you have to keep taking it indefinitely?

    • You do not have to take it forever, but it’s a pretty immediate thing… so if you want your milk to be “slippery” THAT DAY, you take it… if you stop, it’s pretty instantly back to “normal” again. When my baby got bigger and was eating more food and didn’t need as much help with getting my milk out, I stopped taking lecithin.

      (still good to keep it around in case you get a plugged duct or mastitis!)

      • Joelle says:

        Hi Emily

        Greetings from Singapore.

        Thanks fot sharing this. I was struggling to increase breastmilk fat content the extend i pumped until my boob hurts. (Some stinging feeling)

        I only managed to buy soy lecithin. Does that work? Will cause any side effect for soy based lecithin? I drink soy milk everyday and breastfeed. So far have not seen my daughtet having any allergies..

  11. Hannah says:

    I was able to find the liquid form at my local store. How many tablespoons a day would you recommend?

  12. Samantha says:

    The brand I got comes with a warning saying not for pregnant women or lactating mothers any advise?

  13. Hong says:

    Can you take a picture of the bottle? I’m having problems producing milk for my third child.:( … I really want to nurse as long as I can for her.

  14. Natasha says:

    I hardly ever comment on blog posts but I was compelled to this time because I must say…THIS REALLY WORKS!!! Coming from a FTM, I have been struggling so much with breastfeeding my Baby and now finally we are getting somewhere. Thank you so much for this tip! Even if my baby gets a drop out of me I’m just relieved she’s getting the fattiest part 😉 thanks a lot.

  15. Holly says:

    Omg this worked for me! I read your article and bought the granular lecithin that night. I took two tbs in a smoothie. The next morning I had so much milk flowing profusely and my baby just kept eating and eating. She was gulping and the other boob made a huge puddle on the bed. She got so full on one boob she didn’t even need to take the second. I had to pump the other boob and it’s all thick creamy white milk. Up until now, she had been extremely underweight and too tired to eat. She is three months old but only 9.5 lbs (2 lbs over birth weight). She had two tongue tie surgeries and was finally sucking properly but still wasn’t gaining weight and seemed hungry. My milk was consistently translucent with a very thin layer of fat on top. It seemed like I ran out of milk in the evenings. I’m a thin woman and questioned my supply and fat content. But now she’s been eager to eat and pigging out every 1-3 hours non stop around the clock. She seems much more satisfied and is pooping more. I don’t need to pump because she’s eating most of it but I never seem to run out. My boobs are even ready and full for her in the evenings! As a test to see how it looks, on the second morning I pumped and once again almost no watery stuff. I keep waiting for it to separate but it still looks like almost all creamy stuff. It is insane like a milkshake! See photo here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B45wK3lIz0idZnc3QUc3XzBEanc. This is day three and we’re still going strong. I’m doing one tbs lecithin morning and night plus milk rich supplement. I expect her to gain weight rapidly now. I wish more people could discover this and see their own results. Thank you!

    • I’m SO glad it’s working so well for you and your baby. Thank you for sharing! Please share my post with anyone you think could benefit. 🙂 I want all the mamas and babies to share the same success!

    • Holly says:

      I just wanted to send an update to follow up on my first post. I weighed the baby every evening on an empty stomach and found she gained an ounce a day for seven days straight since starting the lecithin. She gained almost half a pound in a week. Prior to the lecithin she had not gained weight at all during the previous seven days. I find this to be conclusive evidence that the lecithin did in fact have a positive impact for us (only other thing I was doing was taking milk rich supplement). However, around Thanksgiving she stopped gaining weight for five days straight. I thought it may be because of all of the commotion with the holidays. Then I realized I had been slacking off on the lecithin doses. I only took 1 tablespoon in a morning smoothie and one pill at night. Once I re-upped the dosage the baby started gaining weight again. I now take 2 tablespoons in a smoothie twice a day, morning and night religiously. The baby is gaining an ounce a day once again. I can tell it’s working and the hindmilk is coming out better because my boobs have a cool tingly feeling when they get emptied all the way and also I get a bigger appetite myself in order to keep producing more milk. In addition the baby can empty the boobs more quickly, easily and completely because the milk is slippery and flows better. Plus the baby has 3-5 poops per day instead of only 1-2 so I know she is getting more to eat too. It is hard to believe the lecithin has such a dramatic impact, usually after only 24 hours. It doesn’t make more fat, it just makes the fat you have come out more easily. I’m thankful for your article and for the lecithin. It has saved us and made it possible for us to successfully and exclusively breastfeed and still gain enough weight to be healthy.

    • Kacy says:

      I’m def going to try this, this my third nursling and have noticed my milk not having the thick top layer it did with my other two. Thanks for the tip!

      Also, Holly, what milk rich supplement do you use? Thanks!

      • Holly says:

        It’s called Milk Rich with Goats Rue by Wish Garden. I have to take the maximum dosage or else it doesn’t seem to do much. The side effect for me is smelly gas. I also try to eat oatmeal sometimes but not sure if it really has an effect. Before finding the lecithin, I tried making oatmeal milk a few times and drank it at night. It may have had a small effect. I take the simple truth soy lecithin granular. It’s no gmo. Sometimes I take the sunflower pills recommended in the post instead if I’m on the go or if I want an extra boost I’ll take it in the afternoon. However, taking that much seems to make my joints feel achy and kinda loose, if that’s possible. And seems to have the same effect on my bowels. Haha But like I said before, not taking enough won’t do the trick. You gotta find what works for you. I’ve also discovered I must be diligent about eating, drinking and sleeping to the max or else my milk supply gets low. Stress is a factor too. Last week when my hubby was trying to get a new job I lost a lot of milk for like three days. Good luck!

  16. Sophia says:

    Excellent article, I’ve been taking Sunflower lecithin for a few weeks now. I had clogged ducts w/in my 1st week of breastfeeding. It was horrible. Even though I am taking the lecithin I still feel like my milk has a low fat content. I only take two capsules of the 1200mg per day, maybe I should begin taking 3-4 to see if I notice a difference? I also have a question about the hind milk. Approximately how long does it take, give or take, for the hind milk to come? For example- w/in 15 minutes of pumping or within 15 minutes of breastfeeding? Is it different for every woman or is it there an average length of time in general. You may not know the answer, just curious…

    • It really varies from woman to woman, and probably also based on other things like how long it’s been since you last breastfed on that side, things like that. I know a lot of mamas who take 2 capsules 3x a day. I personally took 1 3x a day. You can definitely see if taking more changes anything for you!

    • Holly says:

      I read somewhere that the hindmilk may come two minutes after your milk starts “flowing” or lets down. But everyone is different. I usually get a second let down after 15 minutes. I always pump 20 minutes, until my boobs run dry.

  17. Melissa says:

    I wish I saw this back in the beginning. I am vegan and do not each much fat, I struggled for months and months doing everything to increase supply but I feel it was the fat issue. I did supplement but now at 15 months we only nurse but he still seeems to not get enough ( He also has hemp milk) I am going to try this, it would be so nice to give him what he needs. It was so hard to supplement, I felt like a failure, I tried everything! God bless you for writing this post and I will def let you know if it works for me 🙂

  18. Amber says:

    Have you tried the powder form if sunflower lecithin? Does it work as well?

  19. Catherine says:

    I know this post is nearly a year old but I just wanted to reach out and thank you. I struggled with breast feeding from the beginning and I always thought it was just low supply. By chance, my mom mentioned the idea of low fat milk. She recalled that her milk had this big thick layer but noticed mine barely had a fat layer at all. After I found your post I purchased the sunflower lecithin, and BAM! Things have taken such a turn for the better. Even through the midst of a family crisis and a noticeable drop in my already low supply. But we are quickly getting to the point where baby gets full off of the breast throughout the entire day.
    Thank you. 1000 times thank you. I sincerely felt like I was failing my kid while simultaneously doing everything I could to increase supply. Turns out it was low fat milk! Yours is the only post I’ve seen that acknowledges that this is an actual issue. I think many lactation consultants and breastfeeding groups ignore things like this and it definitely made me feel even more isolated. Thank you once again for this wonderful post. You helped this new mama conquer a devastating problem.

    • Catherine, I am SO happy to hear that my post and Lecithin have helped you SO much!

      I definitely agree with the LCs that milk varies and that it’s normal and natural for some people to have lower-fat milk and some people to have higher-fat milk (and for it to vary through time of day, age of baby, etc) BUT mine is always pretty “skim” looking. Always. And lecithin helps a ton.

      So so so glad it helped you turn around your issues with nursing as well!! YAY for full babies!

  20. Ashley says:

    Aboit how many days should we expect to see a change in the milk if it is working for us?
    Thanks!

  21. Hilda says:

    Does anyone know why some moms make more fatty milk than others? Could it have to do with metabolism?

  22. Bianca says:

    I am buying this to hopefully help my baby gain weight! I just started supplementing with formula due to her only gaining 6 oz in a month and my milk being SUPER thin. I swear that I make low fat milk. I would like to stop supplementing but can’t do that unless she starts gaining the min 5 oz per week for EBF babies. I will report back after using it and pumping and seeing my fat layer and her weight gain.

  23. niki chennell says:

    Does it have to be sunflower. Will soy lecithin work?

  24. Abby says:

    I know this is a few months old but this is so true! I’m an over producer. I pump 4x a day and get 28-40 oz on top of contact feeding. It is a blessing and a curse. The clogged ducts were ruthless. I started on lecithin and within days NO PAIN NO CLOGGED DUCTS and super fatty milk. In a 4 oz pump from one side 3 oz will be thick cream to 1 ounce clear watery stuff. The milk/cream looks like yogurt. Such a blessing for my little one! I wish I could attach a picture

    • wow this is so awesome! And I’m jealous of your super-boobs!!! I know it can be “a curse” at times to be an overproducer, but for those of us who struggle with making enough (and who would love to donate), it sounds like the best thing ever.

  25. April May says:

    I started taking the Now Sunflower Lecithin, about 2 days ago, and holy milk batman!!!! My baby was losing weight, having gas, fought nursing, was not getting enough hind milk and I could barely pump an oz from each breast. I also had horribly clogged ducts. Well, my daughter has gained almost a pound in about a week and as I write this, I have pumped 4 oz on one breast, had two let downs and still going strong!!! This is a MIRACLE product. I couldn’t be happier. And my daughter wants to nurse even more now, because she’s actually getting something and not having to work as hard!!!

    I just stumbled across your blog because I noticed the fatty layer on top, had increased, so I Googled if the lecithin had anything to do with it.

    I highly recommend this to EVERY mama with supply issues or clogged ducts.

  26. Audrey says:

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing on the #HomeMattersParty . I hope you will join us again next week.

  27. Very interesting post~ Thanks for linking up to Merry Monday! Sharing on MM Pinterest Board! Have a great week!
    Kim

  28. Ellen says:

    From kellymom.com: “The research tells us that mom’s diet does not affect the average amount of fat or calories in her milk. However, mom can change the types of fat in her milk by altering the types of fats that she eats (Lawrence 1999, p. 106-113, 300-305; Hamosh 1996, Hamosh 1991, p. 123-124). An increase of one fatty acid could generally be expected to occur concurrently with a decrease in another. For example, one study has shown that black mothers in South Africa who eat a traditional maize diet have less monunsaturated fatty acid in their milk than urban mothers who consumed more animal proteins and fats (van der Westhuyzen 1988).”

    Read the entire article here: http://kellymom.com/nutrition/milk/change-milkfat/

    • I’ve read that, however removing more hindmilk from the breast more easily WOULD cause the fat content of the milk overall to be increased. More hindmilk = more fat. And I wrote this based on what worked for me, having seen the almost-nonexistent layer of fat on the top of my milk grow to a much thicker one.
      This worked for me. And if I can help other mamas who want/need the same results, I am happy to share.
      I wish I had known about this 6 years ago.

      • lynsie finamore says:

        Hi,

        I also have “skim milk” breast milk. I’ve pumped out only foremilk before with no fat layer. After reading your story I went Out and bought sunflower lecithin. I hope I have similar results as you did. I’d love to have a “fat plug”

        Thank you for sharing your story.

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