BRAIN mnemonic and infant feeding

Thanks Shel Banks IBCLC Lactation Consultant for creating this meme on the mnemonic B.R.A.I.N. used for making decisions. She has made it relatable to medical care for you and your baby
So important to consider when health professionals or others are encouraging interventions that are not in your plan.

Topping up with formula because of poor weight gain is one scenario where this is really useful to use. Asking your midwife/health visitor/paediatrician these questions when formula top ups are being suggested may make them think a bit more about their recommendations. And will mean you can make an informed choice as to whether this is something that needs to be used. My experience of supporting many breastfeeding mums over the years is that often formula is offered as an easy and less time consuming solution than helping a mum to breastfeed more effectively or increase her milk supply. Generally very little thought is given to the consequences.

Benefits
– increased weight gain
– less risk of health problems related to poor weight gain

Risks
– drop in mother’s milk supply
– bottle preference
– baby developing cows milk protein allergy
– changes to the gut microbiome
– damaging maternal confidence in breastfeeding

Alternatives
– specialist breastfeeding support to assess feeding, improve latch and milk transfer
– increasing frequency of feeds
– breast compressions to increase milk transfer
– expressing mother’s milk to offer as a top up
– use of donor milk from milk bank or other trusted donor.

Intuition
– what is the mother’s gut feeling telling her? Mother’s intuition is often correct.

Nothing
– what happens if we wait? Sometimes mothers and babies just need time for their feeding to click into place
– sometimes weight gain will continue to be a problem and so an intervention is necessary.

Of course, formula can be life-saving given in the correct circumstances. But it should never be given without good breastfeeding support offered, risks discussed and alternatives considered.

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