Can I Change the Fat Content in my Breast Milk?

Breast milk comprises proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, immune factors, and hormones. The fat content in breast milk is particularly crucial for your baby’s brain development, nervous system health, and overall weight gain. Although fat comprises only about 3% to 5% of breast milk, it provides approximately half its caloric content. (amazing, right?)


Something to note is that fat content is relatively consistent in human milk. While many components of breast milk remain consistent, the lipid or fat profile can vary between mothers. Instead of asking,”How do I increase the fat levels of my breast milk?” it’s better to ask, “How do I increase the quality of fat that is already in my milk?” The types of fats a mother consumes significantly affect the quality of fat in her breast milk. Substituting unhealthy fats with healthy ones can improve the quality of fat in your breast milk rather than increasing its quantity.

How Does Breast Milk Change Throughout the Day?

Breast milk composition fluctuates throughout the day to better meet your baby’s needs. Proteins and fats are larger and more dense molecules than carbohydrates and water, which are smaller and move faster. This molecular size difference ensures that your baby receives more water and carbohydrates first during feeding.

In the evening, when your breasts are less full, your baby will get more fat early in the feeding session, which can help them sleep longer. Nursing more frequently increases the fat content in your breast milk. Middle-of-the-night feedings are essential for maintaining milk supply and ensuring your baby receives enough fat; less full breasts mean fat reaches your baby faster. The longer the gap between feeds, the more significant the reduction in fat content from the end of one feed to the beginning of the next.


Incorporating Healthy Fats and Proteins

Cooking nutritious meals can be challenging with a newborn, but integrating healthy fats into your diet doesn’t have to be time-consuming. A key tip is to reduce sugary snacks and opt for protein-rich foods. Here are some foods that can enhance the healthy fat content in your diet:

  1. Butter: Opt for grass-fed varieties for added health benefits.

  2. Chia Seeds: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids and protein, chia seed pudding can be a quick breakfast or snack.

  3. Walnuts: Rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and a common ingredient in trail mix.

  4. Avocados: High in healthy monounsaturated fats.

  5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil: Use these as vegetable or canola oil substitutes.

  6. Sesame Oil: A nutritious fat that can be tossed over vegetables or used as a dressing


Pro Tip: Fat globules in breast milk are sticky and thick. Compression or hand expression before feeding or pumping can help move the fat along, making it easier for your baby to access it.


Often, mothers assume that slow weight gain in their babies is due to a low-fat content in their breast milk. While this can sometimes be the case, indicated by symptoms of lactose overload, it is usually not the primary cause. More frequently, the baby struggles with effectively extracting milk and obtaining an adequate volume, leading to slower weight gain. We tend to underestimate our bodies, but the human body is truly remarkable and adept at creating the perfect blend of nutrients for our little ones. Babies are learning to use all their muscles correctly for feeding and often need guidance to do this effectively!


If you have concerns about your baby’s nutrition, Arkansas Lactation offers support through our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and Registered Dietitians. They provide personalized advice for both mom and baby. Keep up the great work, mama!