There are various reasons a mother would need to learn how to thicken her breast milk, even though the flavor, consistency, and texture of breast milk can change with every feeding, according to the National Institutes of Health as published in Science Direct.
In this article, we will look at how to thicken breast milk naturally and how to choose from different brands of commercial thickening agents to thicken freshly expressed breast milk. Thickening agents can also be added to some brands of infant formula. Continue reading to learn why and how to thicken the milk.
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First of All, Why Thicken Breast Milk?
Most parents choose to thicken milk because of feeding issues. Because thickened feeds move more slowly than thinner breast milk, your child will be more able to control their swallowing and less likely to choke when given breast milk with a slightly thick consistency.
This is true of infant formula, juice, and water as well. Thickeners can help keep liquids out of the lungs while the baby is nursing and protect the airway for babies with certain medical conditions that make swallowing difficult.
Thicken Breast Milk to Treat Dysphagia
As mentioned, some babies have issues with swallowing and become choked more easily on thinner liquids. For this reason, many parents will thicken breast milk and regular infant formulas.
This condition is known as dysphagia and could be treated by offering the baby a thickened feed. The International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI) suggests adding baby cereal or rice cereal to infant formula.
Breastfeeding mothers should note that most infant cereals are not recommended for thickening breast milk, as it has live enzymes that tend to break down the rice cereals, and the milk ends up thin again. Instead, commercial thickeners are often recommended in these cases.
Thicken Milk for Babies with Gastroesophageal Reflux
Thickened feeds are also a suggested treatment for babies who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux. They are often recommended for premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to prevent issues in babies who may suffer from pediatric gastroesophageal reflux. This must be done only with close supervision by the medical care team.
It is important to note that many commercial thickeners are not recommended for premature babies or preterm infants. Some children under the age of 12 months are treated by being offered thickened feeds with regular infant formula. You should consult your child’s pediatrician about the best ways to thicken a premature infant’s meal if the child is only fed breast milk.
How to Thicken Expressed Breast Milk With Thickeners
Commercial thickeners for feeding babies can be mixed with breast milk, standard formula, and certain special baby formulas. They are used with the advice and guidance of a medical professional and are typically recommended for babies with swallowing difficulties.
Of course, parents should always follow CDC guidelines and usage recommendations. Always wash hands and implement safe handling practices when expressing breast milk or mixing your baby’s formula. While commercial thickeners can be used to thicken baby feed, they should not be used as a sole source of nutrition.
How to Use Gelmix Infant Thickening Formula
Gelmix thickener for baby feed is labeled USDA organic, Kosher Organics certified, and GMO-free. There are no common allergens, dairy, corn, whey, or gluten, as it is made with carob bean gum and no xanthan gum.
It is not recommended for infants who weigh under 6 pounds or who were born premature, nor for babies who are currently under a corrected age of 2 weeks.
- To use Gelmix, you should first thoroughly wash your hands.
- Pour the desired amount of warm breast milk into a clean, sanitized bottle. Expressed breastmilk at body temperature will work well.
- Sprinkle the Gelmix infant thickener into the lukewarm liquid, screw the lid back onto the bottle and shake it well until it has completely dissolved. Do this step quickly to avoid clumps forming.
- Let the bottle sit for 5 to 10 minutes so the breast milk can thicken to the desired consistency.
- Before feeding, remix the liquid and test the temperature. Throw away any leftover feed once your baby has finished.
- You can prepare most liquids with Gelmix well ahead of time. If stored in a sanitized, sealed container, the prepared liquid will be fine at room temperature for as long as 24 hours.
- Cold liquid mixed with Gelmix infant thickener will be thicker than when it is warm.
How to Use Nutricia Aptamil Feed Thickener to Thicken Milk
Aptamil has products you can mix with standard infant formulas or breast milk and infant formula that comes premixed with thickener. It is stressed that the regular Aptamil, like any milk thickener, is not meant to be used as infant formula or to stand alone as a meal for your baby.
It is also meant to be used only with the advice of your child’s pediatrician. It is not recommended for premature babies.
- To use Aptamil infant feed thickener, wash hands and prepare formula as directed, or get a bottle of expressed breast milk at room temperature.
- Measure in one scoop of Aptamil for every 200 ml of milk.
- Shake very well until thoroughly mixed.
- Allow the mixture to sit a few minutes to thicken.
- It is best to use a fast or variable flow nipple unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
- If you choose to mix for less than 200 ml, contacting Aptamil’s Care line is important, as failing to mix properly could be detrimental to your baby’s health.
Natural Ways to Thicken Your Breast Milk
Unless your baby has medical issues which make commercial thickeners or infant cereals necessary, thickening your breast milk could be as simple as increasing its fat content.
There are several things that breastfeeding mothers can do to thicken their milk while making sure that they, and their baby, remain healthy. You should discuss these suggestions with a doctor before being implemented.
- Increase your daily calorie intake. With your doctor’s supervision, you can increase the fat content of your breast milk by eating as many as 500 extra calories a day. This is not recommended for mothers struggling with weight gain unless their physician approves.
- Take sunflower lecithin. It is best to find an organic source of this product, which is rich in fatty acids that will increase the fat content of your breast milk. There are several other supplements for this purpose that you can talk with your doctor about.
- Eat more protein. Getting your protein from a natural source, such as lean meats, fish, beans, or nuts, is better. You might also try protein shakes if you are on a diet that needs to be supplemented.
- Reduce carbohydrates. You can thicken your milk by simply lowering the carbs in your diet and adding in good fats.
More Information on Using Thickening Agents for Baby Feed
You should follow your child’s healthcare provider’s instructions or consult a feeding therapist if your baby is having swallowing difficulties. A life-threatening condition such as necrotizing enterocolitis could occur in some babies who are given thickeners without medical supervision. This is especially true of preterm infants.
On the other hand, thickeners in most liquids can be a promising treatment for other medical issues. Oropharyngeal dysphagia, for example, can often be successfully treated with a thickening feed to increase the viscosity of thin liquids.
For parents who are simply trying to reduce spit-ups, you should start by mixing in the thickener until the milk is slightly thick and increase the thickness as needed. This can be done with regular infant cereals in most cases.
In cases where thickeners are being used to treat medical issues, it is best to choose a thickener that is certified kosher, USDA organic, or certified organic instead of traditional rice cereal or infant cereals.
Your child’s medical care team can make the best decision on whether or not you should use infant feed thickeners for your baby’s issues.
How to Thicken Breast Milk: Closing
A baby with swallowing issues, choking problems, or constant spitting up can be exhausting and terrifying. Breast milk thickeners can be very helpful in treating these problems, but you must only use them with a doctor’s supervision.
While some babies need infant cereals and rice cereals to thicken their milk, others will need a commercial thickener. However, if these products are given to infants with certain medical conditions, they can be dangerous to the child’s health.
It is always important to remain calm and confident when feeding your baby. If your child tends to cough or spit up when feeding, you may talk to your doctor about feeding positions, feed thickeners, and even the breastfeeding mother’s diet to help make feeding time easier.
We hope this article has helped to provide you with insightful information on how to thicken your breast milk, as well as other ways to treat feeding issues with your baby. Please feel free to explore the rest of our site for more informational posts like this one – Ultimate Guide to the Best Freezer for Storing Breast Milk 2023: Full Reviews and Buying Guide.