Most women, regardless of age or body type, dread the bathroom scales. What will it reveal? Somehow, we’ve given the scales the power to define us. My question is why we’re allowing the same thing to be done to newborn babies? Why have we given test weighing the power to decide whether or not new moms are a success or a failure at mothering?
Granted, establishing how much breast milk has been transferred from a mother’s breast to her baby during a feed can be necessary. Such as with a preterm infant when trying to establish direct suckling and latching at the mother’s breast, or when a mother is charged with the home care of a preemie discharged before attaining full term maturity. But even then, test weighing is merely an aid and the focus should be on frequent skin-to-skin care, which will help mothers to master feeding techniques and cues quicker and more effectively.
Weighing in on test weighing
Test weighing is problematic when it is done for no sound reason and when no other means have been used to evaluate Baby’s well-being. It also doesn’t have the benefits for full-term babies that it does for preemies. Test weighing doesn’t consider that breastfed babies drink small amounts frequently to stabilise physiological processes, or take into account babies’ 6–20ml stomach capacity when calculating the ‘normal’ intake of milk for each feed in the early days. And what about the fact that all humans are simply hungrier at certain times of the day?
The fact is that test weighing is not necessary; there are other ways to check milk intake, such as monitoring the number of wet or soiled nappies babies go through each day. If our focus is on Baby’s welfare, shouldn’t we be asking whether Baby is growing, healthy, and content instead of measuring milk?
Breastfeeding is a mothering and human activity
Instead we’ve tried to make it a medical activity – much like what we’ve done to birth. Test weighing tells moms that they should favour ‘figures’ over their intuition, and takes away the beauty and love inherent in nursing by making it all about the amount of milk drunk at each feed. It’s also brought the terror of the bathroom scale into breastfeeding, turning nursing into some sort of test that not all moms will pass.
Test weighing claims to be about ensuring the best for Baby, but it actually does the opposite by dis-empowering mothers, sabotaging breastfeeding, and ultimately causing Baby to lose out – on the bonding and love which should form part of nursing, and on breast milk itself when moms turn to formula instead.
If we’re going to let numbers be the deciding factor, then I say it’s time to weigh up the pros and cons of test weighing. I’m pretty sure I know what the scales will reveal.