Before I had babies, I thought breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world.
During pregnancy, it seemed like my body was doing most of the work for me — all I had to do was eat whatever I wanted while I waited the interminable 9 (though it’s really closer to 10) months before that precious bundle was in my arms. Among other things, nobody talks about what happens when breastfeeding isn’t as easy as latch-and-go. What if your milk supply seems to be failing?
Possibly the most unique (and strange) part of the birth experience is the breastfeeding adjustment; I know so many moms who’ve also grappled with its various aspects. More difficult still is the fact that our society seems to attach so many expectations and judgments (and shame if we don’t measure up) onto every aspect of motherhood. Breastfeeding is no exception.
MM: Thank you for joining us again! Can you elaborate on reasons you may need to supplement your baby (and what supplementing means)?
- LNC: Supplementing means giving your baby expressed human milk or formula in addition to breastfeeding. Sometimes this can be referred to as “topping up.”
- A few medical reasons to supplement (as per the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine) include:
- Low blood sugar levels
- Receiving treatment for jaundice (and if they are not feeding well enough at the breast)
- Weight loss greater than 10% of birth weight in the early days after birth
- Dehydration (not enough wet diapers)
- Meconium stools remain on Day 5 of life
- Premature babies who are not feeding well enough at the breast.
- Mother’s milk has not changed and started to increase in volume by the 4th day.
(The above is for term newborns)
The first choice of supplementation for a baby is the mother’s own expressed milk; the next best is donor human milk; and then infant formula (there are many different types; talk to your doctor about what is best for your baby).
There are many different methods to giving supplements, including a supplemental nursing system at the breast; cup feeding; spoon or dropper feeding; finger feeding; syringe feeding; or bottle feeding.
Many women feel the need to “top-up.” Mothers can often perceive that their milk supply is inadequate — sometimes it is pressure from family and friends, and sometimes it’s the doctors/nurses telling them they need to. However, for the majority of babies, if they are consistently gaining weight, content between feeds, and having adequate poops/pees they don’t need to be supplemented. For a mother who wants to exclusively breastfeed, giving a supplement is a huge detriment. It can result in a loss of confidence, and also a decreased milk supply.
MM: What are some differences between breast milk and formula?
LNC: Wow, this is a huge question! We’ll never be able to write about all the differences!
Human milk is an ever-changing fluid containing nutrients and bioactive factors needed for infant health and development. Its composition is always changing! Did you know a mother who gives birth to a preterm infant has different milk composition than a mother who gives birth to a term baby? It’s amazing!
A mother’s body knows exactly what her baby needs. In short, breast milk is living, and formula is not. Formula has roughly 40 different ingredients- which all help a baby grow and develop. Breast milk has at least 300 components (with more being discovered all the time.) Breast milk contains many kinds of antibodies that help protect an infant from sickness, and they are easily absorbed. Formula does not contain these antibodies. Substances are added to formula; however, they do not offer the same kind of protection.
Formula does not have these:
Hormones, antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, growth factors, and cytokines (for the immune system).
For various reasons, some families choose to feed their babies infant formula. Formula contains the appropriate amount of nutritional requirements for the growing infant including the protein, energy, vitamin, and mineral content.
Learn more about the Little Nursing Co. at https://www.littlenursingco.com/, and tune in next week for answers to the following questions!
Can you please explain whether or not it is important to alternate breasts between each feed?
What can I do if I have a plugged milk duct?