Donor Milk

I'm Told my Baby Needs Supplementation...Now What?

Written by Danielle Blair, MS, IBCLC

If you are planning to exclusively breastfeed your baby, the thought of being told to offer supplements (meaning extra milk in addition to direct breastfeeding) for your baby may be downright terrifying.  You may be concerned about nipple confusion, milk supply, or exposing your baby to formula.  Hopefully by learning about common reasons for supplementation and supplementation methods, you can avoid unnecessary supplementation and learn how to offer supplements in ways that are less likely to interfere with breastfeeding.

 

Why might a baby need to be supplemented?

There are many common reasons why a baby might need supplemental feedings.  It is important for you as a parent to advocate for your baby by making an informed decision that the supplement is medically necessary.  Some common medical issues that can arise shortly after birth that may lead to supplements are prematurity, low birth weight, poor feeding, low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), elevated bilirubin levels (jaundice), dehydration, excessive weight loss or poor weight gain.  In all of these cases, the first step is to ensure that baby is breastfeeding effectively.  If not, a supplement might be called for as part of the baby's medical treatment.

Supplement Options: Donor Breastmilk, Milk Banks, and Formula

This past week, we released one of my most favorite episodes on The Boob Group: Low Milk Supply: Donor Milk, Milk Banks, and Formula.  I had the esteemed pleasure of interviewing Amber McCann, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, fierce supporter of all things mothering, and dear friend.  I wanted to know what options were out there for mothers who needed to supplement their babies, as well as the pros and cons of each.

I pulled out the most salient points for this blog article, but you can click here to listen to the Boob Group episode in its entirety: Low Milk Supply: Donor Milk, Milk Banks, and Formula.

 

What are your options if you need to supplement your baby?

When feeding an infant, the World Health Organization lists a hierarchy:

  • Milk taken directly from the mother’s breast
  • Expressed milk from baby’s mother
  • Expressed milk from another mother (wet nurse, donor milk, milk from a milk bank, etc.)
  • Breastmilk substitute (formula)