Many babies get “little helpers” or supplements when they don’t need them. In addition, milk supplementation is associated with artificial milk, which can hinder breastfeeding.
Today we will talk about supplements, when they are needed, and, if they are necessary, the best options for administering them.
What are “little helpers” / supplements?
These are variable amounts of milk, which are given to the baby once or several times a day after the usual breastfeeding, to help them gain or regain weight.
Do supplements always have to be made from artificial milk?
Although most people understand that artificial milk should be offered, it really shouldn’t be that way. The recommendations included in UNICEF’s document “Infant and Young Child Nutrition, Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding” are very clear:
“The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only in exceptional circumstances can mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for an infant. In those few health situations where infants cannot or should not be breastfed, we can choose the best alternative (breast milk expressed from the infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet nurse or human milk bank, or a breastmilk substitute offered in a cup, which is a safer method than a bottle and nipple) it depends on each individual’s circumstances.
So the first option to supplement is always to offer the baby expressed breast milk, if the mother does not want to or cannot express milk, artificial milk is the last option.
When are supplements needed?
Although many babies who do not need them receive them, there are babies who do need to receive these small amounts of extra milk (either breast milk or formula). The most common cases are:
- Premature babies who have sucking difficulties
- Infants who are sick or lose weight
- Babies who lose more than 10% of their weight in the first few days of life
- Babies who have not regained their birth weight by 15 days of age.
- Babies with hypoglycemia
- Babies whose mothers become pregnant before they are one year old
In these cases, it is advisable to encourage the feeding of the baby in order to correct the situation as soon as possible. Once recovered, the supplements can be eliminated. In the case of artificial milk supplements and depending on the amount that the baby takes, it will be necessary to relactate.
In the case of babies who drink breastmilk, once they have recovered, the supplements can be eliminated straight away, as the baby will find the milk they need in the breast.
How much is needed?
The amount of milk offered to the baby is usually in small amounts- 20 or 30ml (less than 1 oz)- several times a day. This amount can vary depending on your baby’s situation and needs. The most important thing is that the baby manages to normalize their weight.
Do they always have to be given in a bottle?
They can be offered in a bottle, but there are always alternatives for when you don’t want to use them. Depending on the situation and the age of the baby, we can find the most appropriate method in each case: syringe-finger, glass, spoon, relactation device.