Got Enough Milk? Part 1: Why Volume does not Correlate with Value
Breast milk is a bioactive fluid that contains so many amazing and dynamic constituents that it is impossible to memorize all of them; it packs food and fluids into small amounts and cannot be exactly duplicated in a lab or from one mother to the next. Formula, although the name sounds scientific, is just a processed food. It is always the same. Whether you give one ounce or 20, the only thing that changes is the calorie count.
Dr. Sears, a renowned Pediatrician and advocate of Breastfeeding, has a very helpful chart on his site comparing some of the key constituents of Breast milk and Formula.
Breastfeeding without any supplements is a very different experience for the baby and its parents than when formula supplements are added. Unfortunately, breastfeeding mothers are often encouraged to add supplements of formula by health care workers and family members. This suggestion is especially common during the early days of breastfeeding when the milk supply is being established.
Although no harm is intended, most parents do not realize that implementing this strategy, without any restrictions, can negatively impact the breastfeeding dynamic of supply and demand. Supplementation changes the timing and frequency of feedings and can adversely affect the quality of direct breastfeedings. To further complicate matters, giving different milks and using different delivery systems can skew the perception of what satiety looks like in a baby.
When assessing if a mother has enough breastmilk, these facts need to be considered.
- Human milk is an energy-rich, bioavailable milk which nourishes and hydrates the baby in smaller volumes.
- Attempts at pumping human milk, especially in the early days, will yield misleading results. What is pumped does not correlate directly with what the mother is making and what is available to the baby with direct breastfeeding.
Formula, on the other hand, is a processed food. It is always the same except when the “additives” and “chemical formulations” are periodically changed to generate some kind of brand loyalty among members of the medical establishment and consumers.
- Breast milk and Formula are very different foods; they each impact digestion, gas formation, appetite and linear growth and weight gain in differing ways.
- When both milks are mixed together in the same stomach any negative reaction will generally be blamed on the mysterious Breast milk, rather than on the cow or soy based artificial baby milk.
Comparing the two milks is like trying to compare apples and oranges. They are both fruit, but the taste, texture and impact on digestion will vary. You could never tell if you were allergic to apples by eating oranges. However, an analysis of breastfeeding is often based upon how the baby takes formula when offered.
Formula is often added because it so readily available and convenient. Marketing 101.
- If the baby needs to have its appetite stimulated by giving it supplements, the first milk of choice should always be human milk.
- Even if only small amounts of extra breast milk are available at first, the biological impact is far more powerful than that of formula.
Technically, whenever formula is added to a breastfeeding relationship, it is the beginning of the weaning process. If more women were truly aware of this fact, I believe the use of formula by breastfeeding mothers would be far more judicious.
Mothers cannot help but question their own milk supply when the analysis is too often based upon adding in a different milk.
In Got Enough Milk? Part 2, we will examine how style of feeding and delivery method of the extra milk provided will further impact the mother’s confidence in her milk supply and breastfeeding success.