Milkscreen Breastfeeding Assessment Calculator; Reducing Mothers’ Breastfeeding Confidence?
Press time update: Over the course of my research on Monday 4/22/13, I noticed that by the end of the day, Milkscreen’s main website no longer shows links to the Breastfeeding Assesment Calculator. The Facebook page for this product has also been removed. An email received from the company confirms that the product has been removed from the website and retailers have been instructed to pull the product from the shelves. I can only speculate that this is due to pressure from social media. ~ Deena
I recently became aware of a new product, the Milkscreen Breastfeeding Assessment Calculator by Upspring Baby, designed to help new breastfeeding mothers be more confident in their breastfeeding abilities. This product tells them whether their milk supply is “low, normal or high” and how they can correct problems.
This product assumes that many mothers are worried about having a low milk supply and therefore this product will reassure mothers that they are normal. To use this product, a mother must pump her milk. Additionally, this product assumes that pumping breastmilk will yield the same quantity as when a baby nurses. We know: what a mother pumps is not indicative of what she may be producing to feed her baby.
From the product description:
“The Milkscreen Assessment home test determines daily breast milk supply. It was created to address the common concern many moms have: how much breast milk do I make and is that enough for my baby? Milkscreen Assessment gives mom confidence to keep breastfeeding by telling her how much breast milk she makes and how that relates to baby’s growth, identifying possible breastfeeding issues and providing recommendations on how to overcome these issues.”
This description may play directly into a mother’s fear that she isn’t making enough breastmilk for her baby.
From the product box:
“Problem: About 50% of moms stop breastfeeding because they are concerned they don’t make enough milk for their baby. Solution: Milkscreen Calculator”
How do we know that this percentage is accurate?
The company does not cite a source for this statement. Moms cease to breastfeed for many reasons, including, but not limited to; going back to work, pain while breastfeeding and personal preference.
The real data on low milk supply
An estimated 5% to 15% of all mothers experience either primary or secondary lactogenesis failure, with the actual numbers being unknown.
Hypoplasia or Insufficient Glandular Tissue is a rare condition that some women may have. and it needs a clinical diagnosis to confirm. Many women with this condition supplement with donated breastmilk or formula while continuing to breastfeed.
I believe that the Milkscreen Calculator doesn’t help to eliminate low production worries, as advertised. I believe that it promotes this fear!
How does Milkscreen test the breastmilk?
After scouring their website, I am not able to find any information on what nutrients they are testing for or what testing procedures they use because they don’t actually test the breastmilk! A mother doesn’t send the breastmilk to their lab for testing. A mother fills out a questionnaire and enters the amount of milk pumped in three pumping sessions, one hour apart. Milkscreen looks at a mother’s production level as “low, normal, or high” and gives her results and recommendations as to what to do if she’s having a problem, and then makes suggestions as to their other products she might like to purchase.
From Milkscreen’s FAQ:
How accurate is this test?
Milkscreen Assessment is modeled after a scientific paper, published in a peer-reviewed journal, and interpretation and recommendations provided in report are based on published scientific literature found in our list of references. However, each woman will respond differently to pumping breast milk. If a woman gets a result that shows low production, it’s possible that pumping was not as efficient for her as feeding at the breast. In this case, the report will suggest to explore this possibility with a Lactation Consultant.
When I took a look through their references list, I was unable to find the paper they referred to.. They do offer useful citations and background information, but nothing supports the need or usefulness of this product.
“This test is based on data that are normative. Hundreds of mothers have had very special calculations of daily milk supply. Our test takes an estimated amount of breastmilk supply over a shorter period of time and lets a mother know if she’s low, normal or high. Milkscreen calculator is an estimate of the day’s milk production, but in a scientifically studied, peer reviewed paper it’s actually a good approximation….. This test is an accurate estimate of daily milk supply…. It is the growth of the baby that is the most important thing. Gives mom an idea of whether baby’s weight gain is low, normal or high. (Uses the WHO growth chart)”
If the growth of the baby is “the most important thing” why don’t we weigh and measure the baby. That would tell us if the breastmilk supply is adequate.
This product oversimplifies the issue of low milk supply. “Low, normal or high,” doesn’t give a mother any real data to go on.
How do others test* for nutritional quality of breastmilk?
The Mayo Clinic provides us with some insight as to how breastmilk is tested and what it is tested for. They use thin-layer chromatography (TLC)/colorimetry/spectrophotometry (SP)/other methodologies as appropriate. With their testing, they use samples that are 4-5ml of breastmilk.
From the Mayo Clinic:
“The nutritional content of breast milk changes considerably from day 1 to day 36 postpartum. Subsequent to that time the nutritional content is considered to be stable.
Measured nutritional components are glucose, lactose, triglyceride, and protein. Deficiency of any of the measured or calculated parameters is suggestive of decreased nutritional quality of human breast milk.”
Mayo Clinic, Breast Milk Nutritional Analysis
“Several different methods are used in the analysis of human breast milk. The sample is analyzed for triglycerides using an enzymatic method. One aliquot of breast milk is tested for total protein using biuret reagent and titration methodology and for measurement of glucose using a glucose oxidase method. A second aliquot of breast milk is pre-incubated with beta-galactosidase and glucose is measured. Lactose is calculated using results obtained by the methods listed above.”
*These tests are not FDA approved.
What is the rate of false positive / false negative results from the Milkscreen test?
An incorrect assessment can have a huge impact on the mother’s breastfeeding relationship. If a mother is led to believe falsely reassured that she is making enough milk, she may not seek appropriate help from a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding professional and her baby may suffer, Alternately, a mother may choose to supplement with formula when in fact, there was no issue or her supply could have been corrected with professional help.
In the video explaining the science behind Milkscreen, Dr. Landers states;
“Anything we can do to help a new mom, especially a first time breastfeeding mom, to have confidence in her body’s ability to make milk and nourish her baby would be a huge, huge addition to our tools to help breastfeeding moms and babies. We know from clinical studies that moms stop breastfeeding because they think they don’t have enough breastmilk supply. It’s the mother’s perception of an inadequate supply and that she doesn’t know what she’s doing… Modern women don’t have confidence in that process (supply and demand). So one of the reasons this product is so important is that it is a huge confidence builder for the average mom.’
Phrases like “they think they don’t have enough milk” and “mother’s perception of inadequate supply” or “doesn’t know what she is doing” reinforce the idea that women are not capable of being knowledgeable or confident about breastfeeding.
Milkscreen Assessment also claims that if a mother has too much milk, she will likely have growth issues with her baby as well. They attribute this to the foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, including the problem of ‘loose stools’ with the infant. Current research no longer supports the foremilk/hindmilk theory, and exclusively breastfed babies normally have loose, mustardy stool. According to Kellymom.com, “Your breasts don’t “flip a switch” at some arbitrary point and start producing hindmilk instead of foremilk. Instead, think of the beginning of a nursing session as being like turning on a hot water faucet.” In other words, there is always fat in breastmilk but the quantity varies dependent upon how long baby nurses. Feeding from a relatively empty breast will yield a higher fat content in the milk. However, it’s the fat over the course of the day, not just in a single feeding which is important.
As educators and professionals, we know to refer a mother who is questioning her milk supply to seek help from a qualified lactation consultant or other breastfeeding professional. Additionally, we can be sure that our breastfeeding and newborn care classes are evidence based, offer useful information and instill confidence in new mothers so they can start their breastfeeding relationship off on the right foot. We also make sure that new mothers are aware of support groups and local resources that can help them if they run into problems and concerns.
Lamaze’s Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together- It’s Best for Mother, Baby and Breastfeeding is a great resource for parents and includes a wonderful video for use in class.
Resources and References:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Adequacy of Milk Intake During Exclusive Breastfeeding: A Longitudinal Study, (2011)
Butte NF, Garza C, Smith EO, Nichols BL. Human milk intake and growth in exclusively breast-fed infants. J Pediatr. 1984 Feb;104(2):187-95.
Daly SEJ, DiRosso A, Owens RA, Hartmann PE. Degree of breast emptying explains changes in the fat content, but not fatty acid composition, of human milk. Exp Physiol 1993;78:741-55.
Hurst, N (2007) Recognizing and Treating Delayed or Failed Lactogenesis II, Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health
“Hypoplasia/Insufficient Glandular Tissue.” KellyMom RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.