Concerned about baby's calcium intake

I have a 10-and-a-half month old who eats baby food very well for us. I have reduced nursings to three times per day. I pump at the "half-time" (middle feeding time) when I am at work three days per week. Today I only pumped one-and-a-half ounces. He is taking four to five ounce bottles during mid-day feeding at the sitter's house. Do you think I should supplement? His doctor says not to supplement with formula unless I really want. My concern is that my baby is not getting enough calcium. He continues to gain weight and is otherwise content.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Being a parent can be so confusing at times. On one hand you feel confident because your baby is gaining weight well and is content, but you are still concerned whether or not he is getting the nutrition that is so important for his growth and well-being.

It sounds as if you are also concerned that your milk supply is insufficient to meet your baby's needs. If you are now finding that you are only able to express one-and-a-half ounces each day, it will probably not be enough to satisfy your baby during your separation unless he practices reverse cycle nursing - increasing his nursing times when you are together and taking in less when you are separated.

A simple solution would be to increase your little one's time at the breast, possibly adding one or more evening or morning feeds. Or you could express your milk more often so you can have enough of your milk to offer in your absence.

If you aren't thrilled with adding a pumping session, some moms express milk from one breast as their baby nurses at the other side, and some express milk following a feed. If you can find the time you might want to express your milk first thing in the morning before nursing your baby. If you can express about an hour before a feed there should be plenty of milk for your little one. You may find that you are able to express a good quantity of milk with this schedule.

When deciding whether or not to supplement with formula, take into consideration that allergic reactions/sensitivities are more common when offering dairy (or soy) to a baby under a year of age.

In regard to calcium intake, babies between 7 and 12 months of age require 600 milligrams (mg.) of calcium each day. Children from 1 to 12 years of age need 800 mg. daily. Though breastmilk seems low in calcium (20 to 34 mg. per 3 oz.) at first glance, it is very well absorbed when compared to cow's milk. Babies absorb 67 percent of the calcium in mothers' milk, while only 25 percent of the calcium in cow's milk

If you are still concerned that your baby isn't getting enough calcium, begin to include some calcium-rich foods as part of his daily diet. You might want to consider tofu (100 mg. calcium/3.5 oz.), broccoli (72 mg./cup), or spinach (56 mg./1 cup cooked). Soy milks, rice milk, orange juice and bread are available now with calcium fortification. (Minute Maid calcium fortified orange juice contains 200 mg. of calcium in six fluid ounces) When reading the label, keep in mind that the RDA listed is for adults, not babies whose calcium needs are not nearly as great. (1000 mg. is the adult RDA for calcium.)

Hoping this information helps you in your decision. My very best wishes in mothering!

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