Posted by: Admin | November 10, 2014

Breastfeeding and Early Supplementation

I have learned from sharing circles, home visits, Cree friends I share with and from health care workers that most Cree women start to breastfeed at the hospital but that formula (artificial baby milk) or water is introduced during the hospital stay. Mothers worry that their baby is not getting enough milk. Colostrum is normally produced in small quantities and in the perfect amount for the baby but the normal weight loss of the baby after birth and the mother’s insecurity coupled with the lack of information, makes way for formula.

As the milk supply needs a good six weeks of “priming” to adapt to the baby’s needs, this early introduction of artificial baby milk or water can affect the milk supply and the mother might think she is not “capable” of producing enough milk. The baby has to ask for the amount of breastmilk he needs for the breasts to produce it. If the baby receives artificial baby milk or water instead, he is not “asking” for the breastmilk so the breasts will “think” they do not need to produce more. As time goes by, the baby receives more and more bottles of artificial baby milk and breastfeeds less and less. He can even become upset at the breast. The mother will end up weaning her baby prematurely.

Avoid supplements at the hospital

Usually, the baby is sleepy during the day following his birth and starts to wake up after 24 to 48 hours. He will then ask to breastfeed often, sometimes even constantly. He might cry often as he is not used to the environment outside of his mother’s womb. He will also lose some weight. It is normal for him to lose up to 10% of his birth weight before his mother’s milk comes in. It is easy to count this 10% from his birth weight as you take the first 2 digits of his birth weight and add a zero. If a baby weighed 3 210 grams at birth, he can lose up to 320 grams. This weight loss is normal and is due to the water he accumulated in his body tissues while in his mother’s womb. Also, the colostrum the breasts produce for the baby in the first few days provide just enough calories to keep him going but they do not always allow him to put on some grams. This is normal. Colostrum is there to open up the baby’s digestive system and to give him a good dose of protection against illnesses. It is not meant to have him put on weight.

Even though there is only a few drops of colostrums per feeding, it is exactly what the baby needs and the more he will breastfeed, the more colostrum will be produced until the day the mother will feel her breast a little fuller and notice the breastmilk becoming lighter in color. We call this the “milk coming in”. It is from that point on that the baby will start to put on some real weight but it will still be a touch and go process. He might put on a lot of weight one week and less the other week. That is OK. Many Cree Elders encourage mothers to drink fresh fish broth to increase their milk supply. The first few weeks after birth are a good time to ask gookoom to make some.

For the “supply and demand” process to work well and to allow nature to follow its course, it is important not to confuse the milk supply by giving artificial baby milk or water to the baby. Whatever he takes from a bottle or a gavage tube (an alternative to the bottle provided at the hospital), he will not ask from the breast. It is a little bit like waiting to receive a meal at the restaurant but never having ordered it…You get what you order! When a baby breastfeeds, he gets the milk he needs AND he orders his next meal.

If you wish to breastfeed for a few months and more, please avoid giving your baby water or artificial baby milk, at least for the first six weeks. Have his weight checked regularly but not every day and be confident in yourself. All mothers produce breastmilk. It is our super power.

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