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Q&A: Supplementing With Formula?

I heard that most breastfeeding moms need to supplement with formula. Is this true?

No. There are certainly circumstances where supplementation is necessary, but this is not normal or common when breastfeeding is properly established from the very beginning.

Make sure you start off on the right foot by giving your body the chance to increase your milk supply in response to your baby’s feeding cues and growth patterns. This means allowing your baby to breastfeed whenever he shows hunger cues. In the early days, this is typically between eight to 12 times per day (and, yup, sometimes more). These feedings are often not evenly spaced throughout the day and rather can be grouped in “cluster-feeds” where baby may want to nurse every 30 minutes at some times of day (typically in the evening hours) and go longer between feedings at other times of the day.

You may feel tired of these frequent feedings, but trying to schedule (or lengthen the time between) feeds in the early days can cause your body to become out of sync with your baby’s. Your breasts don’t produce as much milk if they are not stimulated and drained frequently. If you introduce formula, the baby goes longer between feeds at the breast, causing your milk supply to drop even further. This spiral can lead to early weaning, which can be a great disappointment for mom. If supplementation is medically necessary for your baby and you want to continue breastfeeding, then it’s important that you make an effort to protect your milk supply and work to increase it. Make an appointment with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) to come up with a plan for pumping or altering feeding techniques in order to make sure you’ll be able to successfully breastfeed your baby once you’re done supplementing.

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