Many moms have asked me if there is a particular food they can eat to ‘fatten up’ their milk and help their baby gain weight. Interestingly, studies show that the foods a lactating mom consumes has little influence on the AMOUNT of fat in her breastmilk, but her diet can affect the TYPE of fat her breastmilk contains. Women in 3rd world countries with poor diets have breastmilk composition similar to mothers who don’t have nutrition concerns here in the US. Increasing your fat intake won’t increase the fat in your breastmilk. But you can alter the type of fat in your milk with the foods you eat. It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to consume healthy unsaturated fats such as avocado, coconut, nuts/seeds and olives. Saturated fats such as animal fats and processed foods can put mom at higher risk for clogged ducts or mastitis.
Breastmilk has about 3.5-4.5% fat content across all lactating mothers and the amount of fat varies between these percentages with each feeding. If a mother wants to increase the fat content in her milk, she needs to increase the number of times she’s feeding her baby per day. Frequent feedings allows for a higher fat concentration in moms milk. When a mother waits long intervals between breastfeeding, the milk in her breasts becomes ‘diluted’ and lower in fat. When mom feeds her baby more often (every 1.5-2.5 hours), the milk is richer and higher in fat.
Moms can also add higher fat content to their milk by hand massaging the breasts as they nurse or pump. This will help massage the fat into the milk before it is expressed.
Breastmilk is considered the perfect food. It is naturally created to fulfill the nutrients your baby needs and it changes accordingly throughout the months of your baby’s life. If your baby has trouble gaining weight and you want to make sure he gets the fat that he needs, feed him frequently and make sure to empty one breast completely before switching to the other. Always try to consume healthy unsaturated fats instead of the unhealthy saturated fats to keep mama healthy and baby’s breastmilk optimal. Massage the breasts while feeding to be sure your baby is getting all of the fatty milk stored in the breasts.