…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Got Enough Milk? Part 2: Feeding Methods do Matter

As discussed in Part 1, there is a difference between breast milk and formula. However, it is not only the type of milk, but also the delivery method and style of feeding that can greatly affect the behavior of a baby.

It is not a very accurate scientific analysis when any amount of breastfeeding is weighted equally across the board. There are definite differences between exclusive breastfeeding, breastfeeding with occasional supplements of expressed breast milk and breastfeeding with formula supplements.

The types of milk offered, the delivery methods and styles of feeding can significantly impact any evaluation of breastfeeding success.

Milk:

  • Human milk, being lighter and easier to digest, does not make the baby go into a heavy sleep for the entire interval between feedings.
  • Formula, being heavier and more difficult to digest, and usually given in larger amounts by the bottle, seems to make the baby sleep much of the time, especially in the beginning.

Delivery Method:

Breastfeeding with a decent latch eliminates intake of additional air.

  • The flow rate of milk directly from the breast is slower being delivered in a fine spray that can be more easily handled by the baby. This reduces the need for much burping post feeds.

Bottles, no matter what the manufacturers may claim, always have additional air in the system which can add to the sense of fullness experienced by the baby.

  •  They tend to deliver the milk much more quickly than does the breast; the baby may gag and pull away or develop techniques to pinch off the nipple with its tongue to stem the flow. Obviously this action would not be pleasant if it was then applied to the human nipple.

Feeding Styles:

Exclusive Breastfeeding can vary a great deal from one nursing couple to the next. Much depends upon who is running the show.

Baby-led, or what I call free-style breastfeeding, tends to be more frequent and assessment of intake or quality of each feeding can be somewhat unclear to the mother, especially in the beginning of the breastfeeding relationship.

Conscious Breastfeeding, the term I coined to describe the mother putting the baby on with intention to ensure a qualitative feed, will lead to more defined patterns of feeding that can be optimized over time. NB. This does not mean a schedule, but rather a definite feeding rhythm.

Breastfeeding with Expressed Milk Supplements:

  • The lighter, species specific nature of human milk causes much less digestive upset in the baby.
  • Expressed milk given by a bottle is a pooled sample of milk and the ratio of water, fats, proteins, etc. may vary from one serving to the next.
  • Nonetheless, it will be clear that all growth is taking place solely due to the nutritional value and calorie content of human milk whether taken directly from the breast or via the bottle.
  • Additional air in a bottle of expressed breast milk may make the baby feel more full than when it feeds directly at the breast. This is one possible reason that premature babies only given human milk in a bottle, for days or even weeks prior to discharge, seem unsatisfied initially when switched to exclusive breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding with Formula Supplements:

Several variables are in play with this approach. The breast milk and formula are inherently different as has already been discussed.

  • Caregivers tend to be very generous with the readily available, heavier formula when feeding by bottle. There is a belief that the baby will sleep longer.
  • When formula is given there is usually an unlimited supply compared to the output that results from the mother’s pumping.
  • Since formula is harder to digest, breastfeeding more frequently will not be as productive. The baby needs to be alert and truly hungry to breastfeed well. Otherwise, it will snack on the breast and wait for the bottle.
  • The mom will think she is breastfeeding, but she is quickly becoming the aperitif rather than the main course.

Babies who have been on expressed breast milk and/or formula via bottles for a period of time are often difficult to transition back to the breast:

  • They have developed a taste for the method (firm bottle nipple) and speed of the delivery system (fast flow bottle).
  • The more bottles, the greater will be their discontent while breastfeeding.
  • Their mother who has become accustomed to measuring volumes of milk being given via the bottle will soon become insecure and worry that she doesn’t have enough milk in her breasts.

Babies react differently when breastfed only or breastfed and given bottles of breast milk and/or formula. For this reason it is essential that the utmost effort be made to optimize the baseline of direct breastfeeding.

Judicious use of supplements, preferably of human milk whenever possible, will foster a less complicated analysis and more enjoyable breastfeeding experience.

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