Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators – What's in Breastmilk versus Formula

BABE Breastmilk.jpgToday is the last day of August and the end of National Breastfeeding Month in the United States.  August 1-7 was World Breastfeeding Week, and August 25-31 was when we celebrated Black Breastfeeding Week.  August has been focused on breastfeeding and rightfully so. A healthy breastfeeding relationship is what should come after a safe and healthy birth.  Childbirth educators can help prepare the families in their classes for breastfeeding just like they prepare them for labor and birth.  This month's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators focuses on an activity/teaching aid that educators can use for their breastfeeding classes.  You can find all the previous Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators activities here.


Many pregnant families understand that breastmilk is the perfect and most natural nutrition for newborns and babies.  During a childbirth/breastfeeding class, childbirth educators may share many of the benefits of breastfeeding, benefits that impact both the parent and the baby.  It is understood that when a dyad is unable to breastfeed and pumped milk is not available, formula may be a necessary alternative.  Some people may not fully realize how many ingredients are actually in breastmilk that simply cannot be replicated in formula.  Researchers are discovering and learning more about the components of breastmilk all the time and identifying the function of all the unique ingredients.  This activity is a very simple and effective way to visually demonstrate what are the ingredients in both breastmilk and formula.  Sharing this visual aid has a big "wow" factor simply by the nature of the simple but high impact illustration.


*This poster was developed as a student project for the Breastfeeding Course for Health Care Providers, Douglas College, New Westminster, BC, Canada -  by Cecily Hesle , Sherri Hedberg and Haley Rumble in 2007.

How to conduct this activity

I use this visual aid during week seven of a seven-week series when we cover breastfeeding.  After we have discussed the different benefits of breastfeeding, and before I talk about how the body makes milk, I ask the tallest person in the class to come up to the front of the room.  Sometimes, to switch it up, I ask the shortest person to come up, and then I would ask them to stand on the step stool.  I hand the volunteer the poster that has been specifically rolled up so that the top of the poster is on the "outside" of the roll. They hold it above their head, arms outstretched.

I ask the group, did you ever wonder what all of the ingredients are in breastmilk, and a brief discussion occurs.  I then turn and beginning unrolling the poster, and it keeps going on and on and on, until fully unrolled and stretching well over five feet.  The impact is huge!  The list seems to go on and on on the breastmilk side, while clearly formula is much shorter.

We discuss a bit about what is in breastmilk, how we are learning new things every day and how breastmilk even contains oligosaccharides whose sole purpose is to feed the newborn's gut bacteria and is not digestible by humans but rather consumed by the bacteria.  We have a healthy, brief and interesting discussion about some of the ingredients and then I move on to how the body makes milk.

The take-aways and class reactions

This is a highly impactive and short activity that clearly brings home the complex and valuable nature of breastmilk and all the myriad of ingredients.  Seeing the entire poster unrolled gets a lot of oohs and ahhs from the classes.  I find that the size of the poster is important.  Seeing someone holding this above their head and having it come down to the floor is a big take-away.


Printing and laminating this poster is not cheap and requires taking it to a printer. Utilizing the Lamaze membership benefits of  FedEx Kinko's discount can really help keep the cost down.  Once printed and laminated, it will last a long time.  In my area, Lakeshore Learning (a chain of teaching supply stores across the US) offers very cheap (25 cents/foot) lamination for things that might be very long, so you may want to see if that is available in your area.


The ingredients in breastmilk are so special and customized for each baby, and there are hundreds of components that make up breastmilk.  This poster is an outstanding and effective way of sharing what is found in breastmilk versus formula.  The visual impact is impactive, easy to share and will remain with the families long after the class is over.  The poster is easy to transport and can be used anywhere.  How do you share the many ingredients of breastmilk milk in your breastfeeding classes?  Share with us in the comments section below.


Breast milk

September 1, 2017 01:50 PM by Alicia Suarez, LCCE

Love it! Is there an Spanish version of the poster? 

breat milk poster

September 7, 2017 06:14 AM by Candice Rose Russell, LCCE

This is so great. I love how long it keeps going. A lot of people are into reading labels and I think this would hit home.

breast milk poster

September 11, 2017 04:09 PM by Meei-Ling Gau, LCCE

Ii is so great to using the long list of poster for showing people about the ingredients in breastmilk. I would like to translate it into the  Chinese version. Thank you for sharing the thoughts.

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