Formula certainly has it’s place within society and many mothers who physically cannot breastfeed due to mastectomies and other health issues benefit greatly from formula, however, there is a lot of misinformation within the breastfeeding world regarding the use and “need” for formula top ups.
Many health care professionals who lack knowledge regarding breastfeeding or pumping will often recommend a top up for anything ranging from slow weight gain, cramps, to baby not sleeping, the truth is that biologically babies do not sleep through and due to tummies being new at this whole digesting thing, cramps are sometimes inevitable and slow weight gain can be attributed to a number of other issues such as sleep training or schedule feeding and top ups only exasterbate the issue.
Topping up with formula often leads to falling into the top-up trap and can end up severely damaging your supply.
It’s important to remember that any missed feed or missed pumping session is a missed signal to your body to produce milk.
Our amazing super mom, Petro Goosen, who is the inspiration for this challenge shares her feelings and some tips:
I always felt bad about supplementing with formula. A baby clinic nurse told me to do so when my babies were about 3 months old and I obeyed, trusting she will know best.
Months later, I learned about the La Leche League support group and how uninformed I was. Realising that my supply actually was good enough and that there was no need to start supplementing in the first place, I dearly wanted to have just one formula-free week.
I kept on trying to reach this goal, following all the advice and remedies possible. I had many, many false starts, giving up for weeks at a time before trying again.
After reading on the Exclusive Pumpers SA Facebook group about my struggl, Breastpumps and Beyond offered to send me their Medela Symphony pump, and one month free of charge! It has a great Preemie Plus setting, which increased my supply, but sadly still didn’t make me reach my target.
One day while breastfeeding, I just held out a little longer, feeling guilty for having to “force” my babies to nurse at empty breasts. Minutes later, I heard my babies swallowing again! Sadly, my success was short-lived and I had to supplement again. So I started again. Holding out a little longer while breastfeeding. Giving all the milk that I expressed, even though it isn’t as much as calculations show my babies should get. They surprised me at how content they were with “so little” milk.
Three days became four, four became five, and then – success! I reached seven days! I felt so accomplished! I continued on this wave of success and only an hour or so away from reaching ten days, I had to supplement again.
I still get days where I have to supplement, because my monthly cycles severely impacts my supply. However, it doesn’t feel that bad anymore AND it isn’t a regular occurrence anymore.
Things I wish I knew:
• You don’t have to “save up” your milk. Defying many laws of nature, the more milk you take out, the more milk your body will make.
• It is normal to express 2-hourly during the day.
• It is OK to express 3-hourly during the night.
• Babies need far less milk than you think. Sources differ, but babies generally need only about 100ml per session. Absolute maximum that I’ve read about is 150ml. They definitely need less than what a formula-fed baby needs.
• Taking galactogogues must be an absolute last resort, for example if you have had breast surgery or breast trauma in the past. The medication works, but it doesn’t magically increase your supply for ever. As soon as your body sees hey, I’m making x amount of milk, and she’s only taking out y amount, then your body is going to ignore the galactogogue and default to giving you less milk again.
• You CANNOT “take a break” from nursing. Whenever milk goes into your baby’s tummy, milk must come out of your boobs. Your body must “see” how regular your baby drinks. Every time that baby drinks from a bottle (either expressed milk or formula) and you don’t express, your body will think your baby needs less and will therefore produce less.
• The success of all kind of remedies like tea, ginger beer, milk, etc., is probably more in your head, but if it works for you, go for it. The point is usually THAT you drink fluids, not WHAT you drink. I swear by fizzy calcium supplements and rehidration supplements.
• Wash your pump parts right after pumping, so that you can go express immediately when you have time for it. It is no joke having to take care of babies and express!
• Try different pumps if you can, and even hand expressing. I bought one of the best electric double pumps and it probably saved my breastfeeding journey, but when I’m in a pinch (like being stuck in the mall) I can go to the feeding room and hand express very quickly and efficiently.
Some additional tips are:
Make sure you are pumping or nursing frequently, every 2 to 3 hours for pumping and even more frequently for nursing, any noise or early hunger cues should not be ignored and baby should be placed at the breast.
Follow your baby’s cues, don’t watch the clock.
Doing breast compressions while pumping or feeding can help milk flow faster.
The most effective way to increase milk supply is to empty the breasts regularly.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
If you would like to join the challenge, send your name, age of baby and how many top ups per day to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you inspirational quotes, support and personal one-on-one support if needed, once you have completed a consecutive 10 days of formula free we will post your story on the Facebook page to inspire others.
The challenge will run the entire year, you can stop and start as many times as you feel necessary, there is no pressure and no judgement.
Pump On You Amazing Mammas!