Saturday, December 02, 2006

To supplement or not?

Some doctors are not as supportive of breastfeeding as you would wish. If you are having problems, and the doctor advises supplementing with formula without really investigating how and why breastfeeding is not going as well as it should, you may like to check out the information from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. These are protocols written by doctors for doctors on important topics like supplementation (in English and Japanese) based on protecting the breastfeeding relationship. You might even consider sharing the information with your doctor.

Of course your doctor wants to see your baby growing and thriving, but in Japan the supplements are too often a quick-fix solution. Somewhat surprisingly, supplements are routinely offered at many hospitals if a mother complains she is too tired and wants to sleep after the birth. This is just bad practice. Everyone is tired after having a baby...but you learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding, not by having someone else take care of your baby and feed supplements. Then the mothers complain they don't have enough milk, but your breasts don't continue to produce milk if you don't use it! This is known as the "use it or lose it" principle.

Supplementation with formula changes the gut flora in the baby, and can seriously affect your baby's health both now and in the future (allergies, diabetes, ear infections...the list is very long) so it is not something that should be approached lightly. Supplementing with the mother's own milk is always a better first choice, and if supplementation is indicated, mothers need good advice and support on how to express and use their own milk. "Just one bottle won't hurt "...or will it?

To increase your baby's breastmilk intake, also see Dr. Jack Newman's recommendations and contact a local Lactation Consultant or your local La Leche League Leader.