why is my breast milk watery

Why Is My Breast Milk Watery? Foremilk/Hindmilk Imbalance?

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If you’ve noticed your breast milk seems a bit more like water than you expected, you’re certainly not alone. Many new parents that I talk to as a breastfeeding counselor are surprised by the varying consistencies that breast milk can have. Changes in the appearance of your breast milk are often completely normal.

Why is my breast milk watery? The most likely reason for watery-looking breast milk is that foremilk, the milk that comes out at the beginning of a feeding session, is typically thinner and lower in fat compared to the hindmilk, which is released later in the feeding and is creamier and higher in fat content.

But there may be a few other reasons too – we’ll discuss these in this article.

Why is my breast milk watery looking? It’s probably foremilk

Here’s a little insight into the science behind your milk’s makeup.

Early in a feed, the fresh milk tends to be thinner (foremilk), which has a higher lactose content but lower fat. It’s typically lighter and quenches your baby’s thirst. It’s sort of like the skim milk of your breast milk.

As the feed continues, the hindmilk comes in – creamier, richer, and packed with fats that are key for growth, balancing the lactose. Your body knows just how to regulate this to prevent issues like lactose overload, which can occur if a baby ingests too much lactose-rich foremilk without enough of the fat-rich hindmilk.

Signs and symptoms of lactose overload:

  • Fussiness

  • Gas

  • Frothy, green stools

If you notice these signs, it might indicate that your baby is getting too much foremilk and not enough of the fat-rich hindmilk.

If there’s an imbalance between the two, your milk might seem more watery than you’d expect.

Both foremilk and hindmilk are valuable to your baby, offering hydration and nutrition at different stages of feeding.

8 Other factors influencing your milk appearance

You might notice the texture of your milk varies from one day to the next. Don’t worry, this is normal and there are a few pretty interesting reasons why your milk might seem watery or why it seems to change over time.

why is my breast milk watery - other factors than foremilk/hindmilk imbalance

1. Your hydration levels

Staying well-hydrated is important for your overall health and it also affects the consistency of your breast milk. Like a tall glass of water on a hot day, your body needs fluids to keep things flowing smoothly. If you’re hydrated, your milk may be more watery, but that’s just your body working to maintain balance.

2. Diet

What you eat can impact your milk too. Your milk’s composition adjusts to accommodate the nutritional needs of your baby. So while your late-night ice cream binge won’t turn your milk into a milkshake, a varied diet helps in keeping your milk nutrient-rich.

3. Time of day

The look of your milk can change from morning to night. Really! In the morning, it might be more plentiful and watery, while in the evening, it’s often thicker. That’s because your milk supply naturally fluctuates throughout the day.

4. Stage of lactation

Where you are in your breastfeeding journey plays a part in your milk’s appearance. Colostrum, the early milk, is typically thicker and more yellowish. As your journey continues, your milk will adjust in volume and texture.

5. Temperature

Just like weather affects hair day, temperature can affect your milk. Heat might make your milk a bit more fluid, encouraging you to keep cool and stay hydrated.

6. Health and stress

Your body is like this super-connected system, so when you’re under the weather or stressed, it could make your milk supply dip or seem thinner. Taking care of yourself is part of caring for your baby, so rest up and de-stress when you can. Don’t worry though – your breast milk will contain antibodies against any infection to protect your baby.

7. Pumping vs. nursing

When your breast milk sits after pumping, it’s natural for it to separate into layers, with the fat rising to the top, leaving a thin layer of watery milk below. Just give it a gentle swirl, and you’ll see it mix back into the perfect meal for your baby.

When you pump, the milk might look different than when you nurse. With nursing, your baby gets the right mix of foremilk and hindmilk because, well, babies are pretty smart!

8. Frozen milk

When breast milk is frozen, it undergoes changes that can influence its appearance and composition, particularly in relation to how much fat it contains. After being stored in the freezer, when you thaw frozen breastmilk, you might notice that the milk separates into layers, with the high-fat content rising to the top. This separation is entirely normal, as breast milk is a natural liquid that, like many other foods stored in the refrigerator or freezer, can separate upon standing.

Before giving this milk to your baby, gently warm the bottle in hot water to help mix the fat back into the rest of the milk. Avoid creating hot spots in the milk (which can occur if it’s heated too quickly or unevenly). Gently swirl the warmed milk instead to distribute the temperature evenly.

Is watery breast milk safe for your baby?

Absolutely! Your breast milk changes in consistency and composition, but even when it appears watery, it is perfectly safe and contains the nutrients your baby needs, including lactose, which is an essential sugar that aids in your baby’s healthy development. Think of breast milk as a tailored meal that adapts to your baby’s hydration needs and provides a balanced mix of fat, protein, and lactose.

Thick milk doesn’t necessarily mean better milk. Some think thinner milk indicates a lack of nutrients, but that’s not true. Your milk contains exactly what your baby needs at any given time. If you’re concerned about the milk’s appearance, your breastfeeding routine, or suspect lactose overload, a lactation consultant can offer personalized advice.

How to make breast milk less watery

Let’s look at how you can encourage the production of richer milk during nursing or pumping.


Breastfeeding should be a bonding experience for you and your little one, and getting the richest milk possible can make all the difference. Employ these tips at each breastfeeding session:

  • Start with the right position: Secure a comfortable, latch-friendly position for your baby to ensure your baby is effectively extracting milk.

  • Switch sides strategically: Once the initial thinner milk, or foremilk, is consumed, switch your baby to the other breast. This encourages the richer hindmilk, which has more fat, to flow.

  • Stay hydrated and well-fed: Your own nutrition and hydration levels can affect milk quality. Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water and your diet includes healthy fats.

  • Focus on latch: It’s important to ensure proper latch on one breast before switching to the other. A good latch means your baby can more effectively remove milk, which leads to better milk production.


If you’re using a pump, getting that creamy milk involves a bit of technique too:

  • Pump often: Frequent pumping sessions can help with milk fat content. The more you pump, the less watery the milk tends to be.

  • Optimize your pump settings: Use a higher suction setting to help express the fattier milk that may cling to the milk ducts.

  • Combine pumped milk: After pumping, if you notice a clear layer of milk and a creamier layer, gently swirl to mix them. This combines the foremilk and hindmilk, balancing the fat content in the bottle.

Breastfeeding and pumping

  • Time: Give each nursing or pumping session ample time. This ensures you’re not just getting the foremilk, which is thinner, but also the hindmilk, which is richer in fat. Let your baby nurse until they release the breast naturally, or if you’re pumping, continue until milk flow slows down.

  • Adjust feeding frequency: Try to increase the frequency of feedings or pumping. This can encourage the production of richer milk as your breasts will have less time to fill up with the watery foremilk.

  • Manage overproduction: Sometimes milk looks watery because there’s simply too much of it; your milk flow is on overdrive! If you suspect overproduction is the case, you can try block feeding – feeding from just one breast per session – to help regulate your milk supply.

By focusing on these actionable strategies, you can influence the consistency of your breast milk and ensure your baby is getting what they need. Remember, your body is designed to feed your baby, and small tweaks can make a big difference.

Watery breast milk FAQs

Yes, foremilk is perfectly fine for your baby. It’s part of the natural composition of human milk, providing essential hydration and nutrients.

No, you don’t need to throw away foremilk. It is an important part of the meal that provides hydration and beneficial components for your baby.

To increase the fat content of your milk, ensure both you and your baby have good latch and breastfeeding techniques, and allow your baby to fully drain one breast before switching to the other. This ensures they get more hindmilk, which is higher in fat.

To balance the foremilk and hindmilk, let your baby finish feeding on one breast before offering the other. This approach helps the baby drink both the foremilk and the rich, fattier hindmilk, preventing issues related to excess foremilk.

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