It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness month and as promised, I’m back talking more about the topic. This time I’m addressing another popular form of feeding that goes hand-in-hand with nursing: Supplementing.
While a mother’s intentions to breastfeed exclusively may be real, the truth is it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s INCREDIBLY time consuming, for one. You might as well cancel any appointments for the next two months because you’ll be needed on the couch every couple hours to nurse your baby without any exceptions. Supplementation may be needed for other reasons as well, like in my case which started out with neonatal jaundice, a tongue tie and weight loss nearing 10% when my little Fox was first born. This required us to supplement in the hospital to keep him healthy and eating frequently.
The nurses had him drinking bottles all day long, and the baby and I were separated for over 24 hours at one point so ever since the beginning I noticed I wasn’t making as much as I should.
At 1 month old, he would still fuss every half hour and constantly want more (even taking cluster feeding into account). He would get so frustrated after about 5 minutes of nursing and I could feel my breasts had nothing left in them. I knew it wasn’t the baby, it was me. I never really bounced back producing enough milk after our rocky start and now he was starting to require more. It came to a point where I could either stay in denial about not making enough milk (which I did for awhile), or I can settle my hungry baby’s tummy and try topping him off with some formula to see if that satisfied him. Ever since I tested this theory out and observed his behavior afterwards, it was clear he was much happier and slept much better, even smiling those little gas-induced newborn smiles the whole way through it. However just tinkering with that experiment for one day alone caused an even bigger decrease in my milk supply, and after a few more days I no longer had a choice but to implement some form of alteration in his feeding routine.
Today we’ve come to settle into a new routine that has proven to be quite nice: supplementing. After breastfeeding exclusively for the first month, we switched things up and found supplementing to be more beneficial than I thought. We continue to nurse all night long without exception to keep myself from failing to produce a healthy and adequate supply, and we still nurse throughout the whole day as well. But he’ll also have a 3oz bottle at around 11am, and again at 5pm to satisfy his hungry belly and get a solid stretch of sleep. Either that, or I’ll top him off with about an oz or two of formula if he’s still fussy after nursing. I gotta tell ya, it surprises me to admit this but it’s made everyone a lot happier around here. I find that with supplementing he has the best of both worlds, and I’m very glad I bit the bullet and chose to do it.
Breastfeeding is such a THING. You’re on call 24/7 every hour on the hour to sit down and nurse your child. While Johnny used to fuss every half hour and not ever get into real nap mode- Giada would be yelling my name from across the house needing help with something all the time and Marco would be mischievously hiding or climbing up the bookshelves trying to test the theory of flight only to learn the hard way that humans cannot fly. Being home by myself with these three kids all under the age of 4 was driving me loopy. I had guilt about putting the baby down all the time to chase after my other 2 while simultaneously having guilt for not being able to sit down and invest 100% dedication to breastfeeding on demand. I knew that by not doing so, I would only perpetuate the lack of supply problem I already had, and with each passing day it became increasingly harder to get him “milk drunk”. I eventually put my guilt aside and fed him a bottle only to be pleasantly surprised at how much more manageable it’s been to parent 3 and run a household all at once, and it was a result I never initially expected. Things are much more favorable for all concerned. I see my newborn gaining weight and staying healthy, I have more time to attend to Giada’s neverending inquiries, and I’m now able to shower Marco with all the undivided attention he desperately needs at his ripe age of 1… both to keep him from feeling left out and to keep him from trying to “fly” and crack his skull.
Supplementing is ok you guys, don’t feel guilty about it like I did at first. For all you moms out there who are disappointed in having to use a bottle like I was, there are some things you can learn in order to help make the transition between bottle and breast go smoothly so you won’t have to worry about your baby rejecting nursing when it’s time to alternate.
The first thing to keep in mind is nipple confusion. This is why you hear all that talk about not letting newborns use a binkie. Babies can get used to the feeling of one shape in their mouth, and unintentionally reject your breast when you try to get them to latch on. Babies learn quick, so if you’re gonna supplement it’s very important you use the right bottle. One that is most similar in comparison to the shape of your nipple is best like the LATCH bottle here. It was specifically designed to feed supplementing babies and has features like a flexible spout that stretches and continuously moves that help trick the baby into thinking he’s getting milk from you.
Another thing I learned while supplementing in the hospital is how much flow makes a difference. When I gave Johnny the bottle, it literally poured right out of the bottle and into his mouth without any effort on his part. They tend to get used to that easy feeding and when it’s time to actually work for any milk, they simply give up.
A trick my nurse taught me was to hold the baby sitting up at a perpendicular angle to the bottle, that way even though it’ll still be a lot easier vs the breast, they’ll have to actually suck to get milk out.
This Munchkin LATCH bottle does a great job on addressing this issue because the milk is only released when the baby applies pressure against the nipple, just like when breastfeeding. Their Stage 1 Nipple’s flow matches a mother’s flow best and their Stage 2 and Stage 3 nipples accommodate baby’s growth by allowing you to increase the flow as baby gets older.
The last thing to really be aware of when supplementing is colic. You’ll notice that your baby will spit up and have a lot more gas after using the bottle. The ease on a baby’s tummy is the one thing that’s been very hard for bottle companies to reproduce, but so far I’ve had very good success with LATCH’s design. Their bottles come equipped with an anti-colic valve (the blue spout at the base). It effectively reduces air bubbles and lowers the chance of colic by allowing air to flow in from the bottom of the bottle, stopping it from traveling up towards the baby’s milk. When using any bottle though, stop and burp the baby after every oz or so until they definitely let something out. This also gives the baby a break to settle their stomach and see if they’re full, preventing them from overeating and spitting up too much.
Overall we all know that breastfeeding is the first choice for newborn babies, it has benefits formula can never substitute for which is why we have a whole month dedicated to its importance. But keep in mind that supplementing can be done with either formula or your pumped breast milk, and when done with the right bottle it doesn’t have to be a chore getting the baby to latch on again. I never had a problem transitioning between the two ever since I started to incorporate the LATCH bottle and begin supplementing. Like I mentioned before, we still nurse day and night- and not once has he given me a hard time. I credit it to the use of a proper bottle, one meant especially for supplementing babies like this one. It’s saved me a great deal of grief because anyone who breastfeeds knows how tricky it can be to become successful at it and keep it going until the baby is at least 6 months old.
Remembering to use the right kind of bottle, one that A) is shaped most like you, B) reduces air and colic, and C) doesn’t flow much too quickly are all important factors to consider if you plan on mastering the Art of Supplementation.
You can find the new Munchkin LATCH bottles here. They come in different sizes, just make sure to get the right stage nipple for your baby. Another big tip for anyone who’s supplementing is to pump, pump, pump. This isn’t really a tip, it’s more of a fact. If you don’t pump you’ll seriously jeopardize any chance of continuing to breastfeed. Feed the baby more than you pump because not even the best pump can empty your breasts like a baby can, but after investing in the best pump possible, pump your heart out any chance you get. Pumps, along with many other breastfeeding accessories, are a topic all on its own since there’s so many different factors to consider when shopping for one, plus so many tips to remember while doing it.
In the next Breastfeeding Awareness Month post, Munchkin LATCH and I will be teaming up once again to discuss all things pumping. I’ll share the best tips I have, introduce some amazingly genius products that make pumping ever so convenient, plus review several different other accessories meant for the nursing momma.
Until next time!
*This post was sponsored by Munchkin LATCH.