Bethany Braun-Silva is a parenting and lifestyle editor, native New Yorker and mom to two very energetic boys.
As you venture along your breastfeeding journey, one question you may be faced with is, “how can I extend breastfeeding for as long as possible?” There are so many contributing factors that can affect your milk supply, and stressing about feeding can only make matters worse.
Supplementing with baby formula
There is one solution that breastfeeding moms often turn to for help: supplementing with formula. Choosing to add baby formula to your breastfeeding routine can help you breastfeed for longer, and there are several reasons why.
We chatted with Jadah Parks Chatterjee— Nurse, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Bobbie Medical Advisor— to find out just how moms can use formula to help extend breastfeeding and how they can cope with all the emotions that come with it.
How to deal with feelings of guilt around formula feeding
Before you incorporate formula into your baby’s diet, you might experience guilt, and you’re not alone. Even Chatterjee expressed that she felt guilty when introducing formula to her son and says that part of feeling guilty comes from the realization that your baby might not be doing well. “As an adult, we set goals, and we show up to achieve those goals, and if those goals go in an opposite direction, we feel responsible,” she says. If your milk is taking a long time to come in or if your baby is losing weight, then simply put, your baby needs to eat. Offering formula can take some of the stress off of moms. “When you see you’re baby happy and thriving, you are more relaxed,” says Chatterjee. “So you have the bandwidth to receive, hear and learn how to improve whatever is going on with breastfeeding.”
How can you extend breastfeeding by supplementing with formula?
“Formula feeding allows you to be able to share the responsibility with partners or support persons,” says Chatterjee. So much of breastfeeding is emotional and mental, and if moms are not in a good place, breastfeeding becomes more difficult.
Breastfeeding, even just once a day, is worth it.
Luckily, says Chatterjee, breastfeeding, even just once a day, is worth it. First, for moms, the baby is helping to stimulate your body to release those hormones to help with your postpartum journey. Your body is regulating your hormones and your endocrine system with stimulation. Second, the baby receives that contact, that transfer of energy from the parent, and being skin to skin continues to support heart rate, respiration, glucose levels and temperature. “I think that transfer of happy, positive energy is good stability for the baby and good for the mom, too, because it releases oxytocin,” says Chatterjee.
And just because you’re formula feeding doesn’t mean that your baby has to miss out on breastmilk during those feedings. Adding breastmilk to a formula bottle is one way to go. “You can mix breastmilk and formula,” says Chatterjee. “But think about the volume of milk that your baby is going to enjoy because you’re not going to want to toss the human milk.”
When is the best time to nurse if you are combination feeding?
“I recommend breastfeeding in the morning,” says Chatterjee. This is the best way to support human milk supply because cortisol levels are generally at their lowest and you’ve (hopefully) gotten at least two hours of sleep. Plus, Chatterjee says that in the morning you have a larger volume of milk onboard and it’s important to communicate to your body to stimulate — whether that be through hand expressing, pumping or nursing.
Simple ways to keep your breastmilk supply strong
Throughout the day, if you’re not with your baby, and I would nurse in the morning, use a breast pump at least once a day and nurse again before bed, says Chatterjee. She also recommends a few other things that you might not have considered:
Hand express and stimulate: The body works on stimulation to release hormones in order to increase milk supply and production. You want to be stimulating your breast. The standard recommendation is “8 or more in 24,” meaning eight or more stimulations within 24 hours and for at least 15 minutes.
Enlist support: Ask a neighbor to feed your baby or tag team with a relative or partner so you can take time to rest. “When you enlist support, your body relaxes, and you can figure out the best way to transfer food to your baby,” says Chatterjee.
Transition babies sooner rather than later: The sooner you transition to formula, the less likely there will be a disruption in feeding. “Making the transition sooner will ensure that you have a happy, comfortable baby, so that when Mom is away from the baby, we have a happy, comfortable mom knowing that her baby is transferring food with a bottle, no problem,” says Chatterjee says.
Verified by Jadah Chatterjee, Nurse, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Bobbie Medical Advisor.