Supplementing breastmilk with formula… it’s not as detrimental to your breastfeeding journey as you might imagine!
It’s a stress that all breastfeeding and pumping mamas know – you look at how much you’ve pumped, freak out that it won’t be enough, then make even less milk because you’re stressing about it.
Talk about a vicious cycle!
Yes yes… breast is best and all that, but at some point if trying to provide milk for your baby is causing you so much stress that it’s impacting your relationship with your baby, or your mental health, it might be time to think about supplementing.
I know the breastfeeding advocates will shout “Your body will adjust and make as much milk as you need!”
That doesn’t help your stress. At. All.
Back in the day, there were wet nurses and fresh goat milk. Since that’s not as socially acceptable in this day and age, we have formula.
Some moms just can’t produce enough… and that’s OK!
I myself found myself at the crossroads at around 6 months with my twins. I felt like I was attached to the pump, and it was taking away alot of valuable time with the rest of my family. My toddler got bored of sitting next to me, I couldn’t play with my babies on the floor while pumping because they just pulled the tubes, and I missed out on some seriously needed adult time with my husband at the end of the night because I had to pump.
While I did breastfeed some, I found that they didn’t eat as much, and it was much harder to keep track of how much they ate. While nursing all day was cool with my first, when there’s more than one kid, and you have two babies, that concept becomes a lot more difficult!
That isn’t to say there aren’t super moms who can do it, but I couldn’t.
Today I want to talk about how we alternated breastmilk and formula feeding, what that schedule looked like, and what to expect!
The best formula for supplementing breastmilk
While everyone has their favorite formula, I wanted certain things in the formula I picked.
- Corn Syrup Solids Free (Cow’s milk lactose as the only source of carbohydrates instead of adding corn syrup solids).
- Organic Dairy
- Added DHA (The way it is extracted is sometimes controversial, but I decided the pros outweigh the cons)
I found an amazing baby formula guide that breaks every little detail of the organic formulas on the market down.
My breastfeeding and formula feeding schedule for my twins at 9 months
I wanted to keep pumping so that I wouldn’t lose my supply, but also give them formula at the best times that would help them out!
I had heard formula makes them sleep longer because it takes longer to digest, so I decided that I would give formula bottles before naps and bed time.
This would allow me to pump while they slept, instead of trying to cram in the pump session with twin babies and a toddler all running around!
It would also make it easier for someone else to take care of nap times if I wanted to leave somewhere, since they would already be used to the taste of it, as well as being OK with not nursing.
At 9 months, my girls were on a pretty solid 2 nap schedule, so my day looked like this
6:30 AM – Wake, nurse
8:30 AM NAP- Formula Bottle and Sleep
8:45 AM – Pump for minimum 15 minutes while my toddler watched a show
9:30 AM – Wake, nurse anything that’s left to help my supply
11:30 AM NAP – Formula Bottle and Sleep
11:45 AM- Pump (and enjoy my time because my toddler slept as well!)
12:30 PM – Wake, nurse any extra to help supply
3:30ish PM – Nurse around this time.. my nursing tended to happen every 3 hours, but I was also working on getting them to eat more solids!
6:30 PM BEDTIME – Formula Bottle and Sleep
8:30 PM – First wake up of the night, I’d sometimes give them a bottle so that I could save up my milk and be able to nurse them throughout the night without having to get a bottle (we co slept and I hated getting out of bed!)
So, even though I didn’t have enough to nurse them all the time, I did pump milk so as to keep up my supply and be able to store a little extra.
If you don’t have any to pump.. sweet! It’s that much easier!
Supplementing with Formula at Night
I have been on and off with this. For a couple of months, I wasn’t really sure why they weren’t sleeping well. After I gave in and supplemented them with a formula bottle at night though, they stopped fussing and managed to fall asleep.
I figured they must’ve just been hungry and frustrated since they were not getting anything from me.
I had come to the conclusion that I should probably supplement with at least one bottle at night… but getting out of bed while co sleeping with my twins meant they would freak out and try to follow me. Since I didn’t want them falling off the bed, I did a little looking online, talked to friends, and they told me about this AMAZING SANITY SAVER!
It makes a perfect warm bottle in literally 10-20 seconds at the push of a button. It has custom adjustments for each kind of formula, and cleaning it is really easy!
I put it at the head of my bed, and it made my nights so much better!
I just had to press the button, and I had a bottle ready to go!
Will alternating with formula ruin my breastfeeding journey?
As long as you pump to make up for the missed nursing session, you shouldn’t expect your breastfeeding dreams to stop any time soon.
Here are some tips to keep your supply up while you supplement
- Add a pump session for each formula bottle given
- You can use a Supplemental Nursing System for the formula so that your body still gets the “make more milk” signals, but you are also able to feed your baby! I did this in the hospital for my son as well as my twin babies!
- While supplementing, make sure to verify that your baby doesn’t have any medical condition, such as tongue tie, that could be fixed and help him nurse better!
- Explore both natural ways to boost your supply as well as prescribed ones, such as domperidone
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may only have to supplement for a certain amount of time.
For example, I’ve heard of plenty of people who supplement until their baby takes to solids. Then they are able to go back to strictly breastfeeding since their baby is able to get the extra nutrients and food through their solids!
Can I mix breastmilk and formula in the same bottle?
Can you, yes… should you? Well, it depends on how certain you are your baby will actually finish the bottle!
The thing with formula is that once the baby has drank from the bottle, it needs to be discarded pretty quick (I think the rule is an hour!)
A better idea might be to let your baby nurse as much as he can, then give him a “top off” bottle.
Your supply remains, and you know that your baby is full since you’ll be aware of much of the formula bottle he drank!
This was a quick read on mixing formula and breastmilk that was pretty informative!
Changing from breastmilk to formula side effects
Formula is completely different from breastmilk, and so obviously there will be a period of transition in baby learning how to digest that!
Here are some common side effects from transitioning from breastmilk to formula (don’t worry though, most babies get used to the change after 1-2 weeks!)
- Extra gas – Make sure to get a good bottle to reduce air intake, and the proper nipple flow to ensure your baby isn’t drinking too fast and getting air!
- Constipation – Don’t be afraid to try different formulas! Some babies have a dairy sensitivity, and may need “gentle” formulas where the milk is broken down differently making it easier to digest!
- Possibly more spit up if your baby is still young
Breastfeeding and formula feeding advantages and disadvantages
I want to preface this by saying just because breastmilk is healthier for your baby by itself, that doesn’t mean that it’s healthier for you as a family!
I am not going to list an in depth comparison – you can find that here.
Instead, I will briefly go over practical pros and cons!
- Cost – Unless you are pumping, breastfeeding will be much less expensive than formula feeding (each can is around 30 dollars, and you use up to one a week!)
- Cleaning – There is less to clean with breastfeeding (again, unless you’re pumping)
- Contents – While breastmilk is
alotmore nutritious, it is also important to watch what you eat, drink, and how medications can affect your milk. Your baby may also have food sensitivities that make it difficult to breastfeed and eat your normal diet. Formula feeding is easier in the sense that you know exactly what is in it!
- Amount consumed – In the early days when it’s important to monitor baby’s weight, it is much harder to record how
much babyate when breastfeeding compared to just recording the ounces baby ate from their bottle. If breastfeeding, a weigh in before and after is needed to know for sure how much baby ate
- Help – Unless you are pumping, you must be around for every single feeding session! This can be very demanding and
exhausting,and makes it hard for others to help you. Dads love the ability to bond through feeding, so if you are breastfeeding, pumping is great to allow others (like dad!) to help!
And finally… the comparison between breastfed and formula fed baby poop!
There is definitely a difference in formula and breastfed poop! If you happen to be doing cloth diapers, keep in mind that formula fed poop won’t dissolve away in the wash, and will need to be scarped off before being washed!
Here are some key differences between breastfed and formula feed poop!
- Breastfed babies can go anywhere between 3-7 days without pooping, while formula fed babies typically poop everyday
- Breastfed baby poop looks very watery with cottage cheese size chunks in it and is typically yellowish. Formula fed poop is more like peanut butter and much darker (and stinkier!)
If you want a visual guide (and I know you do – words aren’t good enough sometimes!) find an here is an awesome visual guide to baby poop!
How did supplementing help me bond with my babies?
You’re probably wondering how possible decreased time at the breast has actually helped me feel closer with my babies.
The short and sweet is that it is a lot less stress, and I feel I can enjoy my babies more!
I don’t feel near as anxious about feeding them, and wondering if they’re getting enough for me. Wondering during fussy times if they’re crying so much because of growing pains, or because I was so insistent on not supplementing.
I can feel good knowing they are full, and that I am providing something super healthy for them!
The first time you buy formula, you’ll likely feel down – I know I did.
I felt like people would judge me for not trying hard enough, not committing to pumping more or trying different herbs and such.
But the only thing that matters is you and your baby!
If your lack of supply is stressing you out, just buy a can of formula. For all you know, that reduced stress may actually boost your milk as long as you pump to make up for the nursing sessions!