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How Do I Know When It Is Time to Supplement?
Postpartum Planning

How Do I Know When It Is Time to Supplement?

When? Why? How? So many questions as a new mom navigating postpartum. Let’s cross “when to supplement from breast milk” off your list. Thank you, Mommy's Bliss 360 expert and SLP, IBCLC, Courtney Olson for clearing things up around this all-important topic. Let’s make sure your baby is getting what they need with some good, solid (supplemental) advice.  

The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Research has shown breastfeeding positively impacts both the infant and the mother’s health and breastfeeding success rates improve when women are educated, empowered, and receive the support they need to breastfeed.

However, every breastfeeding journey is unique, and supplementation might be necessary to provide adequate nutrition and hydration for your baby! It is important to remember that whatever path your breastfeeding journey takes, you are doing an incredible job providing love and care for your precious baby.

The most recent data shows less than 25% of infants in the US are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months of age. There are countless reasons for this - perhaps a medical necessity arises, or maybe there is a challenge with milk supply. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of personal choice for the family. Whatever the path, every family's decision is unique and deserving of support and understanding.

Medically necessary supplementation

It's common for newborns to face challenges such as low blood sugar or jaundice in those early days. Your medical care team will have protocols in place to promote continuous bonding through skin-to-skin contact and on-demand breastfeeding, even while addressing these concerns. If supplementation becomes necessary, you have options - from hand-expressing drops of colostrum to offering donor breast milk or formula.

Additionally, it is natural for babies to lose a bit of their birth weight initially as they adjust to feeding. Around 7-10% loss is typical, but if your little one's weight loss approaches this range and signs of dehydration emerge, it is time for a closer look. With proper evaluation and support, you can continue your breastfeeding journey while supplementing with expressed breast milk, donor milk, or formula, ensuring your baby receives the nourishment they need to thrive.

Low milk supply

If you are concerned about your milk supply, reaching out to a lactation consultant is a great first step. As your breastfeeding journey unfolds, both your breasts and your baby will undergo changes. These fluctuations can sometimes be mistaken for low milk supply when, in reality, everything is on track.

Occasionally, low milk supply is temporary and can be addressed through strategies to enhance milk production. You and your lactation consultant can work together to develop a plan to work on boosting your milk supply. During this process, it may be necessary to supplement your baby's feedings to ensure they receive adequate nutrition and hydration.

In some cases, there are medical reasons underlying low milk production. This is why it is so important to work closely with a lactation consultant and your healthcare team to get to the root cause of low milk supply. If low milk supply persists despite interventions, and your baby is not gaining weight as expected, discussing supplementation options with your healthcare team becomes crucial for meeting your baby's needs while finding the best feeding approach for your family.

What if I do not want to breastfeed?

It is okay for your feeding goals to evolve. I have worked with clients who initially aimed to breastfeed but found it did not align with their journey, while others who were set on bottle feeding found themselves pleasantly surprised when their baby naturally took to nursing.

Your healthcare team is here to engage in open, honest conversations, ensuring you are fully informed about all feeding options for your baby. Whatever decision you make, it is vital that you feel empowered and confident in your choice, free from any regrets or doubts.

Once you have settled on your feeding plan, share your goals with your care team and support network. Whether you choose not to breastfeed, prefer pumping and bottle-feeding, or opt for a combination of breastfeeding and formula, embrace your decision wholeheartedly, knowing you are making the best choice for both you and your baby!

Final Thoughts

If you are feeling overwhelmed or experiencing guilt over incorporating supplemental bottles into your baby's feeding routine, please give yourself grace. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. It is okay to acknowledge and process the emotions that arise as you navigate feeding challenges and adjustments. Breastfeeding can present unexpected hurdles, and it is natural to mourn the feeding journey you envisioned.

It is also essential to remember breastfeeding does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. If supplementation becomes necessary, it does not mean you have to stop nursing altogether. There are ways to seamlessly integrate supplementation while continuing to breastfeed, such as supplementing at the breast or crafting a feeding plan that blends nursing and bottle feeding to suit your family's needs.

Tips for Successful Combination Feeding (Bottle & Breast)

Navigating Triple Feeding: A Comprehensive Guide

Remember, supplementing is not a sign of failure, nor does it define your abilities as a parent. You are doing an incredible job, and your dedication to seeking guidance and support speaks volumes about your commitment to your baby's well-being.

To all caregivers reading this, regardless of your chosen feeding method, I hope you take a moment to recognize the remarkable job you are doing as a parent. You are providing love, care, and nourishment in the best way you can, and that is something to be immensely proud of. Trust in yourself because you are exactly the parent your baby needs.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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