I have three children, all have been breastfed. My third baby, however, showed me something I didn’t think possible. He showed me that there are times when breast is not enough. Experts and experienced moms alike will tell you that breast is best. Breast milk gives your baby everything he or she needs, and if you doubt that, you are likely being “paranoid.” Well, in most cases, they’re probably right. The vast majority of infants get adequate and very healthy nutrition via breastfeeding. In past articles, I’ve even reassured new moms that if their baby is peeing and pooping regularly, their milk supplies are probably just fine. I stick by all of the above, but add a word of caution, even if your baby is having regular diapers, it’s important to track his or her weight and height.
Growth charts aren’t all important, but they help.
I’m certainly not saying that growth charts are something to obsess over. Personally, I don’t feel comparing my baby to the national averages all that logical with the obesity rate in America right now. I mean if America’s babies are fat, why would I want my baby to measure up to them? Growth charts should be used to do just as their name implies, chart growth. This is important because you may not notice a problem until it’s a severe one otherwise. In my case, my baby was getting consistently taller without gaining adequate weight. It’s not uncommon for infants and even children to go through cycles where they grow plump, then grow taller and skinnier, then plump up again, but over a four month period my babies height kept overshadowing his weight gain. In those trivial percentage terms, at four months old his height was in the 88th percentile, and his weight only the 9th, leaving his height-to-weight ratio at less than one percent. When he was born, his height and weight had both been in the 80-90th percentile (9.47 lbs and 21 in.) and as time passed his height held steady while his weight declined even though he was gaining weight. He just wasn’t gaining weight as fast as he was growing tall. He didn’t look skinny. He was wetting diapers and leaving me stinky gifts. He ate nearly constantly, without frequent spit-ups. My supply seemed ample- when pumping I could get a 6 oz+ from each breast. I’d have had no indication there was a problem until he became extremely disproportionate had it not been for the growth charting.
How is it possible for breast milk to be insufficient if it isn’t a supply issue?
OK, after reading that last paragraph you may be going, waaait, you just said you had adequate supply, so how was breast not enough? Yep, I had more than sufficient supply. My baby ate wonderfully and constantly. His latch was flawless, but the moment we, on our pediatrician’s recommendation, started supplementing cereal bottles our babies weight gain started catching up with his height, showing my breast milk was not sufficient nutrition for him. My first thoughts were guilty. You can’t imagine how it feels to suddenly realize you’ve been unintentionally starving your baby for four months. I felt inadequate. I felt like a bad mom. I thought maybe my diet was creating low-fat milk or something, but honestly, I hadn’t changed my diet at all between baby three, and two, or even baby one. When I put breast milk bottles in the fridge, after 24-hours or so a layer of fat still separated. There was fat in my milk. I was always great about taking my prenatal vitamin too. It honestly was that my baby required more calories than my breast milk could provide from the moment he was born-a true little ogre baby.
I’m in no way saying that breast is not best. I still breastfeed my baby. I’m simply saying that there are times when your baby tells you, in his or her own way, that breast is not enough, and in that case supplementing is the best option. Keep in mind that’s not your fault; you shouldn’t let it bring you down.
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