Supplementing with formula

Sometimes, due to complications or unforeseen circumstances, breastfeeding alone isn’t enough and you need to supplement with formula.  And sometimes mums just want a break from the around-the-clock feedings and are looking for a little relief.

First of all, don’t feel discouraged.  The less you feed, the less you’ll produce, but it’s still possible to maintain enough for a few daily feeds. It’s also possible that undue stress might be more damaging to your milk supply than taking breaks from feeding anyway. As with every aspect of motherhood, do what is right for you and your baby.

Your baby will receive some necessary nutrients through formula, and because you’re still feeding a few times a day, your baby will benefit from breast milk’s unique antibody properties.  A little breast milk is better than none.

How do you know if you need to supplement?

Look for signs that your baby isn’t eating enough  and talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

While it might be necessary to start supplementing, most lactation consultants recommend waiting until your baby is a month old to prevent any production disruptions. If your milk supply is compromised, know that your baby’s health is more important than where the nutrition is coming from. If supplementing is a choice, perhaps weigh your options on waiting it out, as it is best to stay on the breast as long as you can.

Moving onto a bottle

To make the transition smoother, have someone else give your baby bottles in the beginning. Babies are more likely to refuse bottles if they can smell breast milk. If your baby is frustrated or frantic, she is less likely to take the bottle.

There might be changes in your baby’s bowel movements and eating habits when you start supplementing, since the consistency of formula keeps babies fuller longer.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life, followed by the timely introduction of safe and adequate foods. WHO recommends continued breastfeeding for the first two years and beyond. Breastfeeding provides babies with the best nutrition and is preferred when possible. Always follow professional advice before using an infant formula. Introducing formula can have a negative effect on your milk supply and be very difficult to reverse. Proper use of an infant formula is important to the health of the infant, only use as directed.

Written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot, New Zealand’s leading pregnancy and parenting resource.

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