Any time you may supplement your baby with formula or anything other than your breast,
it can harm your breast feeding relationship. In the first 6-12 weeks of your baby's life it can
be even more detrimental. We all have heard how breast feeding is a supply / demand
relationship. What that means, simply put, is that what your baby demands to be fed, your
breasts will make. But how does baby " demand"? Your baby demands by sucking, plain and
When he is first born he will suckle almost constantly, to lay down those pathways that signal the brain to make milk - previously discussed on Nursing Your Newborn. Your body responds by creating an over abundance of milk, what we term as your milk 'coming in'. We all know that painful, uncomfortable feeling of hard, engorged breasts soon after birth( between 3-10 days) Typically your breasts settle down, as they adjust to what your baby is drinking. And at around three months, your milk production is considered established. This results in your breasts not feeling as full, sometimes they leak less, sometimes they appear smaller. This is typically a time a mother will think she is losing her milk and start to supplement. But we'll come back to that.
In your baby's first days / weeks, it's very important to let baby suckle often and a lot.
When a bottle is given in place of baby suckling at the breast, there are no
signals for that particular feed going to the brain to
signal to make milk. So your supply drops. Add
another feed, and another, and the cycle continues.
The more the bottle is given, the less milk you will
make, by not having your baby at the breast. By assuming you're not making enough milk to
feed your baby, you make sure you don't by offering the bottle - breast feeding is not fully
Then we get to nipple confusion. Draining milk from the breast is hard work. Newborns sleep
often at the breast because it is tiring work. Work that is extremely beneficial to your baby,
muscle growth, jaw control, tongue control are just a few of the ways it actually helps
development! How awesome is that? Your baby is getting so many physical benefits just by
When you offer a bottle, even a slow flow nipple, is so much less work. Tip a bottle up and
watch it drip, trickle or pour out. Imagine then the force that the infant usually needs to drain
the breast, and the little effort it would take to drain a bottle. Who wouldn't like to do less work to score a feed?
Baby may take one bottle fine and continue happily at the breast, keep giving a bottle and
baby will prefer to drink from a bottle. He will scream and fuss until mom gives in and gives
another bottle. Again taking away that stimulation at the breast needed to make the milk. See the pattern?
Now when we get to the three month mark, where your breasts have 'evened' out. You no longer feel engorged, you don't leak so much. So you figure you're losing your milk. This is the furthest thing from the truth, and because we live in such a formula pushing society, typically there's some formula laying around. You just want to test and see if the baby will act more satisfied,if he's satisfied after formula, surely that means my milk is gone?
Well in a word .... No. If your baby falls asleep faster, or goes longer between feeds. That just means his little belly is full of something that takes much longer to digest. At his age, his belly is only made for your milk. It has a hard time processing that formula, it requires energy, he sleeps.
If you fall into that booby trap, you will believe he needs a suplemental feed, because he just wouldn't settle like he did with that formula last time. So you make another bottle, and baby doesn't go to the breast. No signal to the brain, no milk being made for that feed. Each time you put a bottle in his mouth, is time your brain has not been stimulated. You had a milk supply before - now you don't. You just created your own self fulfilling prophecy.
Unless you have a baby that is not gaining weight, doesn't have 6-8 wet / poopy diapers a day, is not gaining length or head circumference, his nails and hair are not growing, your baby is getting exactly what he needs. His own super food packed full of vitamins, minerals, fats, anti bodies. Designed especially for him. To introduce any kind of suplements can be dangerous and harmful to your breast feeding relationship.
As mothers we all worry, endless lists of worries bounce around in our heads for our babies. As long as you put your baby to your breast, you don't need to worry about a supplement. Remember to go through your check list of output, weight gain, etc, before you turn to a bottle that nine times out of ten was not needed in the first place.