Introducing At-Breast

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Adam and Eve breastfed. Most mammals breastfeed. Breastfeeding is natural, perfected by evolution, and scientifically regarded as the best method of feeding a baby. Being natural does not make it easy. Societal changes, advances in technology and shifting cultural norms have complicated breastfeeding relationships. I am here to tell you that is OK – times change.

As a lactation consultant, I am always optimistic about new mothers achieving the American Academy of Pediatrics standard of exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months. Of course, every new mother faces different obstacles in life and for most moms, this goal becomes out of reach. In fact, only 25% of mothers reach the sought-after 6-month mark (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,2019). Even during the three days after birth, 92% of parents report issues with breastfeeding , while 60% give up earlier than they would have wanted. What’s more is that these outcomes are not usually the parents’ fault, but rather the fact that our medical and social systems fail them. By the time I get to see these babies, parents are exhausted and feel like they are out of options.

Introducing At-Breast Supplementation

What do parents do when they feel they are out of options? Some will  get professional help, some struggle through it – but most will supplement or even replace breastmilk with formula. What many parents don’t understand is that supplementing does not have to mean the end of a breastfeeding relationship. Moms can continue to breastfeed using a lactation consultant technique called at-breast supplementation. This is when a mom supplements the baby’s food intake to keep the baby fed but does it at the breast to keep babies interested in the nipple and to keep her supply up. Keeping a baby at the breast after birth is the number one rule for successful breastfeeding. When a bottle is introduced, it disrupts the breastfeeding process and can cause issues with latching and supply. If the baby requires supplementation, the best way to achieve this is to do it at the breast so that the natural breastfeeding process can continue.

If at-breast supplementation has so many benefits, why isn’t it done all the time? There are several reasons for that: it’s expensive, it requires time, it could be cumbersome to use, and it requires  cleaning. However, if given the choice and some training, at-breast supplementation can save many breastfeeding relationships and be worth the time and effort.

The “Bridge”

My team at Laally invented a product to make at-breast supplementation easy and as natural as possible. The device, the Bridge, uses a thin nipple cover, built-in tubing, and a syringe to deliver milk or formula straight to the nipple. It is thin, easy to use, and can be used for short-term and long-term supplementation, for inducing lactation and for on-demand breastfeeding. Since April 2019, the Bridge has helped hundreds of parents reach their breastfeeding goals – from premature babies needing a way to latch to working mothers trying to breastfeed whenever they can to mothers with chronic low supply needing full-time help. The Bridge can help most moms address their breastfeeding issues – empowering them breastfeed their way.

Wagner, Erin A et al. “Breastfeeding concerns at 3 and 7 days postpartum and feeding status at 2 months.”

Pediatrics vol. 132,4 (2013): e865-75. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0724

Odom, Erika C et al. “Reasons for earlier than desired cessation of breastfeeding.” Pediatrics vol. 131,3

(2013): e726-32 doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-1295

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