Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, most mothers are struggling in the first few weeks!
One of the most common struggles is worrying about milk supply, or more specifically, not having enough.
Once worry sets in many mothers may think about giving extra milk. It may even be offered in hospital for medical reasons. Generally it is not needed.
The tricky thing is, once formula is introduced the amounts almost always increase.
But don’t worry, it’s not your fault. We can turn this around with the 6 Steps below! Keep reading!
Now let’s see if we are on the same page.……
Is this your reality?
Your baby is guzzling milk from a bottle even after you have breastfed………you are devastated! You ask yourself, “Am I ever going to keep up and meet my baby’s insatiable appetite?”
At each feed you are breastfeeding for as long as you can. Giving a small amount of expressed breast milk then giving the rest of the feed as formula?
After the breastfeed you need to pump milk ready for the next feed which is just around the corner!
You are stuck in an endless loop of pumping, cleaning bottles and fitting in crucial sleep!
It’s a crazy merry-go-round that you can’t jump off! You feel stressed and exhausted! Am I right?!!
This is not sustainable! It’s just too hard to breastfeed, then pump, then bottle feed and then do it all over again and again!
Quite often you begin to miss breastfeeds. After all you need a break! I hear you AND I don’t blame you………..let’s face it, someone can help you with bottle feeding!
BUT if your mind and body are just yearning to put your baby to the breast then I have the answers!
If fully breastfeeding is your goal then formula has to go!
I know you must be thinking, HOW? How do you cut down the formula and still meet your baby’s needs.
The answer is in the 6 steps below. But, to reassure you, the plan does not include extra PUMPING! Although some pumping IS needed, it is only until the formula stopped!
Why Pumping More Is Not The Answer
As I promised, the ANSWER is not to PUMP more milk! You may be asking, “why don’t you need to pump more milk?” Good question. There are three reasons why pumping is not the answer:
Reason # 1 – Hormones Are Not Helping
A pump doesn’t compare to skin to skin contact from your beautiful baby. When your baby cuddles into your breast your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps you pump more milk!
You see, a pump is plastic and does not feel the same as your baby. So you don’t release oxytocin as well and this reduces the amount of milk you express.
So the breastfeed is the best way! I will go into this more in just a minute!
Reason # 2 – Pump Not As Strong As Baby
Mechanical pumping is not as strong as your baby breastfeeding. More specifically, the pump ONLY draws the milk out by a sucking action.
Whereas your baby, on the other hand, compresses the breast tissue with their mouth, jaw and tongue. Then draws the milk out at the same time! This is double the work of the pump. Your baby is the best!
So we want to use your baby to increase your milk supply rather than more pumping! Do whatever works best, am I right?
Reason # 3 – No Time!
You may be thinking that you could just pump more. This will produce more milk and THEN you can cut down formula!
But realistically you just don’t have time to pump more. Remember that merry-go-round………breastfeed, pump, bottle feed and bed! Not much time to fit more pumping in.
To add to this, when you do pump for a long time, and I mean more than half an hour in one session, your breasts may become painful. They may swell and cause problems with latching.
For these three reasons, mechanical pumping is just not as effective as the sucking and swallowing action of your baby breastfeeding.
So the PROBLEM is how are we going to get off that merry-go-round, cut formula and fully breastfeed? Well the SOLUTION is…………………. More EFFECTIVE BREASTFEEDING!
Better sucking and swallowing = more milk = increase in supply!
So lets’ minimise the pumping, focus on the breastfeed and get into the PLAN!
We are in! This plan will get you fully breastfeeding. It is FULL-ON, but usually only for a week or so! So let’s make a commitment together, you in?
First, Let’s go over your GOALS. These will help with your focus and show you there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Goal #1 – Watch Your Baby
As you move through the steps you need to watch your baby breastfeeding. More specifically you will see your baby become more alert and sucking and swallowing will be more frequent.
This means your breast milk supply is INCREASING! (even though you can’t see it). Step #2 will give you more on this!
Goal #2 – Amount Of Formula Decreasing
Keep track of the amount of formula you are giving. The goal is to watch this number decrease. This means your baby is taking more milk out while breastfeeding! (Again, you won’t see this extra milk your baby is getting!)
So let’s dive into the steps to drop formula and fully breastfeed!
Step #1 Timing the breastfeed
First, you will still need to top up with formula when you start this plan. But don’t worry, formula will decrease as we get into the plan.
Now to the timing of the breastfeed. This step is making sure you breast feed, give the top up and put you baby back to bed in around an hour!
Le me explain why I chose an hour! You see, it’s tiring being a new human out in this world.
Your baby is still very little. And as a result – he (or she) has very limited amount of energy when they are awake.
That is why babies under 6 weeks can only stay awake for about one hour before they “tire out”!
It might not seem like hard work to you… But maintaining body temperature and developing all other bodily functions is a massive, tiring job for your baby!
And that leaves very little energy for feeding. And adding to your baby’s tiredness is the digestion of formula. This is where the problems start.
You see, formula is harder to digest than breast milk. A baby that is having formula will use some of their precious energy on this digestion and will be tired for the next breastfeed.
This creates a negative loop: sleepy breastfeeding (baby takes less milk) – more formula needed – sleepy breastfeeding!
So we need to make sure the breastfeed is super efficient. This is why, in step #2, I will give you ALL MY STRATEGIES to get a tired baby to suck well and drink more!
Each breastfeed will get better and better! Your baby will gradually take more and more milk from the breast! And at the same time – INCREASING YOUR SUPPLY –WITHOUT PUMPING!
Here is the break down of how each breastfeed will look:
- Breastfeed as soon as your baby wakes, any side. Leave nappy to the middle of the feed. If you first check and change their nappy there’s a good chance a lot of their energy will be wasted on crying. Therefore, it is much better (at least over the next week) to breastfeed first.
- Change nappy after the first breast (this will wake baby up….not done yet!)
- Head over to the other side. (And maybe back and forth again….more about the breastfeed in Step #2!)
- This should take about 45 minutes in total
- Offer your expressed breast milk as a top up first
- Next offer formula to fill baby up (This is where we will see the numbers decrease!)
- Wrap and settle baby back to bed
- All done in an hour!
These steps above will change as we remove the top ups. The breastfeed will go for the full hour. (Your baby won’t be sucking for the whole hour but the whole process of both breasts, nappy and back to bed within an hour!).
So now let’s see how to manage the breastfeed so your baby takes heaps of milk out and increases your supply. (Leading to less pumping, YAY!)
What I’m talking about is focussing on the sucking and swallowing during the breastfeed. So here goes!
Step #2 Focus on the Swallowing!
Focus on the Swallowing means WATCH YOUR BABY SUCKING.
You see, your baby sucks at the breast then swallows the milk. But your baby needs to suck quite hard to pull the milk through the breast, out the nipple and into their mouth. A big job and very tiring!
So, you are watching for big sucks rather than little nibbles. Pay close attention to them. What is your baby doing?
- Is your baby’s sucking pattern deep and rhythmical?
- Is your baby’s jaw opening wide? (You’ll know it is when you see movement at their temple)
Those two points are the signs of a good, strong suck which has the ability to extract the milk out of the breast.
But if the sucking changes to little flutter sucks or nibbling, or if your baby actually falls asleep, it’s time for a break.
You see, sucking at the breast is so tiring that your baby can only do it for up to 20 minutes at a time. With formula, this may be quite a bit less, more like 5 minutes before they’re are exhausted!
Once the action slows down, the sucking becomes ineffective and doesn’t have enough “drawing power” to extract milk from the breast.
When that happens, your baby may come off by themselves. Or you can do 2 tricks to get the Nibbles to turn into bigger sucks. Let me explain:
- While your baby is breastfeeding cuddle your baby into you. This pushes their mouth into your breast giving them a little nudge – – Bigger sucks!
- To help your baby further and change those nibbles into sucks you can use a simple trick – – Breast Compression. Place your hand on your breast, at the top away from their mouth. Give a squeeze and HOLD for a minute or until your baby moves into big sucking. You can repeat this as often as you like! This one trick can increase your supply AND why you don’t need to PUMP more! (See Video!)
- Listen for swallows – Lean in and listen. You will hear a click or breath out your baby’s nose. To get a better idea of the noise you can drink out of a water bottle and listen to what it sounds like. Swallowing a smaller amount of milk is a quieter noise and a big gulp or larger amount of milk is much louder.
If all this pushing and squeezing does not produce a swallow, it’s time to take your baby off!
And now… it’s “daddy time”!
Now you can recognise a big suck and stimulate your baby to suck well (by squeezing your breast!
You are on the way to increasing your milk supply.
You are helping your baby suck effectively to remove more milk with big sucks! (This means Less pumping!)
Up next is how to manage the 45 minute breastfeed to make the most of your baby’s precious energy.
Step #3 Taking a Break and Switching Sides
This step will explain what to do throughout your 45 minute breastfeed. A hint, you will be using BOTH BREASTS!
You can also incorporate your new squeezing techniques, from Step #2, into the breastfeed.
Firstly start the breastfeed as soon as your baby wakes, leave the nappy until the middle of the feed (as I mentioned above). This means your baby can use all their energy on the breast feed.
Next, watch your baby at the breast and make sure you are seeing swallowing. Follow step # 2 over and over again to keep your baby swallowing.
In the 45 minute breastfeed your baby will have a few goes at the breast incorporating both sides.
Your baby may be on each breast somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes and can switch sides between each go. You may even use both breasts twice each! Great stimulation!
Here’s how the breastfeed will look:
- Watch your baby sucking
- When you see the swallowing slow down, implement step # 2, pushing your baby in and squeezing your breast. Repeat this a few times over a few minutes.
- If baby remains sleepy and not responding (that is moving from nibbles to big sucks) it is time to take your baby off.
- By taking your baby off you allow them to rest their jaw, wake up a little and then get ready to go back for more swallowing (Only a few minutes).
- When you take your baby off lie them on the floor (on a mat or blanket), you can also check and change the nappy.
- Your baby will wake, look around, suck on their hand then cry. This is your cue to start the breastfeed again on the other side (it may only be a few minutes then back into it)!
You will keep repeating this process over and over until you have completed approximately 45 minutes.
It may seem weird to do this, BUT, it is the only way to keep your baby alert and to swallow as much milk as possible.
This is the key to increasing your supply. (Not more pumping!)
But remember the goals above, you are looking for change. The change you will see is your baby getting more and more alert as they take in more and more breast milk.
THEN you will notice the formula amounts dropping (keep track of formula numbers!).
As the amounts of formula decrease your baby will have less to digest and more breast milk. Remember it is much easier to digest breast milk…..This means more energy for breastfeeding!
Next step is about the top up of extra milk. You will still need to use breast milk and formula until your baby takes over the job of Fully Breastfeeding (maybe a few days!)
Step #4 Top up
After you have breastfed for 45 minutes, taking your baby off in response to their swallowing, it is time for the top up.
Firstly, offer your breast milk, this is from your last pumping session. I will explain about your pumping in step #5. Offering your breast milk first means you can give less formula.
Once you have given your milk, assess if your baby still wants more and if so give formula.
Your baby feeds very quickly from a bottle and finds it difficult to stop the flow. This means they may take more than they actually need.
To fix this offer small amounts of formula, about 10 mililitres first then repeat this amount until your baby is full enough to settle easily.
If you are not sure how much to give head over to my blog “How much top up to give your baby.”
Remember goal #2 is taking note of the amount of formula you are giving. You are trying to decrease this amount each day. This will happen naturally as your baby takes more milk while breastfeeding!
Once you have breastfed and topped your baby up it is time for bed. Try and finish all this within an hour, but remember this is a guide and may take a little longer.
Now on to pumping, yes there is a little pumping to be done, but not much!
Step #5 Pumping Time
Once your baby is in bed it is pumping time. (Because you are making the breastfeed efficient you have a little more time for pumping!
This pumped milk will be ready to use for the next top up.
I have written an awesome blog on pumping, its called 3 Steps to Pumping Success. If you flip over here you can get all the tips to pump effectively and get more milk out!!
But before you pump, Here is a BIG TIP – You may not notice an increase in the amount of milk you pump.
This is very NORMAL! As I have stated it is not about the pumping it is about the breastfeed.
Your baby will be taking out more and more milk during the breastfeed. You won’t see this milk but your supply is increasing.
It is a hard concept to grasp, I know! As I have said all the way through this blog, it’s not about the pumping!
Your baby is better at getting the milk out. We just had to get the breastfeed right so your baby can help you increase your supply.
But you still need to pump while you are still using formula. Let me explain, if you are using milk that is not coming from your body (formula). Then you need to remind your breasts to make more milk.
This where pumping is necessary! Pumping will stop once the formula stops! Happy days!
Now on to the final step, making sure your baby is getting enough with all this sucking and swallowing at the breast!
Step #6 Nappy Time
Final point and most important – Count Nappies! What goes in, must come out. By counting nappies and knowing what is normal will do the trick!
As you decrease the formula and manage the breastfeed, it is time to count the poo and wee.
So here is the deal, if you continue to maintain the right amount of poo and wee, then we know for SURE you baby is still getting enough to eat! Even though you can’t see your milk!
Here is the low-down of expected poo and wee for a baby between 1 and 6 weeks (Check our my blog, Is Your Baby Getting Enough Milk?):
Wee – Your baby will have a wet nappy whenever you change it. Generally about 6-8 each 24 hours.
Poo – Your baby will poo on average 3-4 times each 24 hours. It will be soft, yellow and look like there are little lumps in it. Poo is a little more individual for each baby. So you may not meet the 3-4 average.
If your baby does one poo per day it will be a big one, filling the bottom of the nappy. If your baby does 8 poo’s per day they will be smaller.
The bigger the time frame between poo the bigger the poo.
Bring it all together
So now you can:
- Assess your baby’s sucking and swallowing.
- Manage the breastfeed in about 45 minutes by taking your baby off and on in response to their sucking and swallowing.
- Fit in some pumping.
- See formula decreasing.
All this can happen within one week! Just keep following the goals and keep monitoring the changes.
Formula decreasing and breastfeeding increasing coupled with the right amount of poo and wee means it’s WORKING!
One more tip, weigh your baby at the end of the week to make sure the weight is increasing. Check out my blogs on slow weight gain here.
If you have been able to remove formula altogether then it is time to decrease the breast milk top ups and breastfeed for a little longer (about an hour).
You are trying to get your baby full and satisfied from a breastfeed alone. You can go slow by giving a top up of your breast milk every second feed and see how you go. Then drop more top ups until you are fully breastfeeding.
A Final Point…………
Sometimes plans go a little south! Don’t worry. Just hang in there, I know this plan is FULL-ON! But it should only be for about a week.
Just keep watching for your goals! Or contact me for more support. I have supported thousands of mothers through this tough time! You got this, or you’ve got me!