Recently, I came across an ad for an Israeli-developed personal breastfeeding monitor. The page is in Hebrew only, but the general idea is finding out exactly how much a baby got from each breast at each feeding. Although I no longer breastfeed, as a mother who had successfully breast-nurtured two children I couldn't pass this invention without commenting; it seems ingenious, but in my eyes, though in rare instances it can perhaps be useful, in most it can actually be harmful. Why, you ask?
1. It might be inaccurate, erring in both ways. Suppose the baby is happy and satisfied, but the monitor says he didn't eat enough; result, a mother frets needlessly. Suppose it says the baby ate quite enough, but the baby continues restless and fussy, looking for more milk. Result, a frustrated mother who doesn't know what else to do to comfort the baby.
2. It might be indirectly misleading, in the way of displaying a very small number of ml. for a specific feeding. A mother might panic and say, "oh no, it's less than an ounce" - forgetting that she doesn't breastfeed 6 times a day like "the books" say, but more like 12. Some babies are fussy and restless, and will only settle down for a good long nursing session in a quiet room with no distractions. Some just like to snack. Unless you monitor every feeding (and who would bother to do so at night, I ask?), you won't really get a clear picture.
3. It might be used as another step of technological fear-mongering, i.e., leading us to believe that we cannot trust our senses, but only what a monitor screen shows. "What! You aren't using a breastfeeding monitor? You are so neglectful, how do you know the baby is getting enough?" - just as it is now generally believed that in order to give birth you need a hospital, an army of doctors and nurses, constantly beeping monitors and pain meds, so it might be proclaimed that you cannot breastfeed "properly" without a monitor. The truth is, of course, that if all goes well you can give birth mostly by yourself (though it is good to have a back-up plan, I believe), and in order to breastfeed, you need nothing but a breast and a baby (though we all have our personal preferences as to other things we like to have on hand, such as a tall glass of water or, in my case, a spare cloth diaper for the other breast, which would always leak).
4. I don't know how much this monitor will cost, but this lovely invention will almost certainly be used to try and pull some more money out of anxious young parents. I see it as formula: in some instances it is necessary, like medicine; in most, it is useless and potentially harmful. But if formula companies only promoted their product for strictly medicinal purposes, they wouldn't be clipping huge coupons like they are today. In this case also, I'm willing to bet anything that in order to succeed, they will try and get their product into every home. The reviews on their website claim it is "A must for every nursing mother", which it is not. I strongly disagree; no, very few mothers, if any, would truly benefit from such a device.
I personally see no reason to complicate what ought to be simple. Especially in a postpartum, sleep-deprivation-addled-brain state, with hormones plunging down and surging up, it's best to keep things straightforward. You have a baby; you have milk. The baby is drinking, peeing, pooping, sleeping (though perhaps not as regularly as you would like), and growing (though not necessarily according to charts). If you breastfeed and your baby begins fussing in an hour or so, no harm will come from offering the breast again. If that doesn't help, try something else. If the new baby is with its mother always, and the source of milk is always on hand, generally there should be no trouble, and no need for monitoring.