The following is a letter written by Edda West, a longtime breastfeeding proponent and counselor with many years experience as a Leader with La Leche League. She responds to a grandmother who is concerned about the apparent dissatisfaction of her two-month-old grandchild and the possibility he might not be getting enough milk or milk that is sufficiently nutritious.
Your daughter, Gloria, is THE classic case of why breastfeeding fails and slowly gets compromised by soother and formula.
The first couple of months are critical to establishing milk supply. The fact that she uses a soother is a primary reason her milk supply may not be meeting the baby’s needs. As well, many women have a misperception about the physiological mechanism of breastmilk supply and don’t understand that their milk supply absolutely depends on the amount of stimulation through sucking they receive from the baby. It is a circular co-dependent system.
But breastfeeding is NOT a mechanical feeding device only for giving milk. It provides comfort, pleasure sucking for the baby, soothing, closeness and love. Many babies just need to be on their mother’s body – so often fussy babies are helped by being carried around the house in a baby carrier. Human infants and most primates are understood to be “continuous contact” species – which means they need closeness & carrying (most of the time) to help keep them happy.
Anything that interferes with stimulating the breast is going to compromise milk supply. Soothers are deadly instruments in my experience, UNLESS there are copious amounts of milk and baby is gaining like crazy. Where there is a worry that milk supply isn’t meeting baby’s needs, then soother use is an insidious form of sabotage as it interferes with the signals the mother’s body needs to keep increasing milk supply to meet the baby’s growth requirements. If Gloria has any deep commitment in her heart to breastfeeding, she would be well served to go to some La Lech League meetings and talk to other mothers and the Leaders to get accurate information & access to a lot more reading than she’s done.
As soon as she introduces formula of any kind, she will a) immediately begin to lose her milk supply and b) will compromise the immune factors the baby is receiving through her breastmilk. Many, many, many studies show clearly that any form of artificial feeding changes the baby’s gut flora, and compromises the dominant gut based immune system. That is a biomedical fact. Breastmilk provides nutrients and immune factors in synch with the baby’s needs, which change according to environment and stage of development. Gloria’s milk is her baby’s most important immune protection.
If she introduces formula now when the baby is still so little, it is the beginning of weaning. Every bottle of formula displaces her body’s ability to create milk. It becomes an insidious circle in which the baby guzzles the formula leading the mother to believe he is really hungry, then she’s under the impression that it went down well and he liked it, so then another bottle is added and in no time, her own milk supply diminishes to the point where there’s no more point in offering the breast. As well, often when the artificial nipple is given, and it’s so easy for baby to guzzle formula, they will get lazy and no longer want to nurse at the breast (which takes a lot more work and a whole other set of facial muscles) – all this contributes to the end of breastfeeding.
The fact that Gloria’s diet is poor is secondary to her milk supply. A mother’s body will “rob” from her own physiological resources to accommodate the baby’s needs. We see women in poor, nutritionally deprived areas of the world whose babies are chubby and healthy. It is only when they stop breastfeeding that the babies also succumb to malnutrition.
Most women are inspired to feed themselves well during lactation. They intuitively understand that what they put into their own bodies is going to translate into what comes through their milk. Drinking black tea and cola drinks is probably what makes the baby fussy. The caffeine will come straight through into her milk and set the baby on edge. The other thing that will happen in mothers who don’t feed themselves well is that they themselves get depleted and very tired. Eventually their own fatigue is what drives them to wean their babies. If anything, urge your daughter to take at least the pre-natal multivitamins that she was taking during pregnancy. That would probably help her hugely.
In terms of would this baby be better off with formula?…Unless a mother has a physiological anomaly in that her breast tissue is inadequate to lactate, or she is on chemotherapy drugs, babies are ALWAYS better off being breastfed.
In terms of one formula being better than another, all formulas are meager attempts to duplicate the nutrient values in breastmilk, and all are pathetic counterfeits. Human milk is a living fluid made from the mother’s blood that cannot be artificially reproduced. The powerful immune factors such as the live cells (macrophages) can never be inserted into any formulas, nor can many, many other immune factors that simultaneously nourish while blocking pathogens – an elegant and complex system that has evolved over millennia to insure the survival of the human species.
I hope these few notes will help Gloria fully understand the value of her milk and will inspire her to make the changes necessary to ensure its continued flow.