I shared the start of my breastfeeding journey a while back and have since mentioned that we started some supplementing. I’ve gotten a few questions on why I decided to do this and how I went about it, so I thought I would share.
Please note that feeding is very specific from baby to baby and none of this information is to be taken as medical advice. Always, always consult your pediatrician.
Start of Breastfeeding + Why I Chose to Start Supplementation
Before I had Claire, I intended to breastfeed exclusively for at least a year. I did have the mindset that if it just didn’t work out, I wouldn’t breastfeed but I still had that one year mark in the back of my mind. Breastfeeding started off great. My supply came in quickly and seemed like more than enough to feed her until a few weeks in.
During all the early growth spurts, I felt like I was completely tethered to her just to keep her satisfied. Each growth spurt felt like I couldn’t keep up with the feedings. Between her growing and the mix of my own hormones that seemed to be working against each other (read more here), my supply was not great by the time she was three months old. At that point, I was pumping three times a day as well as feeding her on demand probably 12 times a day. With all this pumping, I could barely keep but two small 2-3 ounce bottles in the fridge at any time. I was not able to start a freezer stash and anything I had the chance to freeze was quickly used.
After about three months, Claire’s weight started to seem like an issue. She never lost weight but her percentiles often dropped at each appointment. We were seen more often than just for her 3, 6, and 9 month appointments to make sure her weight gain was on track. The pediatrician we were seeing always brought it up like it was a problem, but never seemed proactive to do anything about it. Although she wasn’t saying anything was wrong, as a mom, I felt like something was wrong. For three appointments in a row, her percentiles had dropped significantly and this just didn’t seem right because she was eating tons of solids and still breastfeeding just as much.
I finally decided to start supplementing when she was about seven months old. Unfortunately our pediatrician offered little advice on how to start this. I was honestly terrified of formula. I feel like it was made out to seem like poison and like it would instantly ruin my supply. But it was actually a godsend.
How I Supplement + Breastfeed Combined
The formula we chose to go with is Similac Advance Non-GMO. It’s a little more expensive but not as expensive as organic formulas. We tried two different Enfamil ones before using the Similac one and she hated both so much. She had zero problem transitioning to taking the formula once we found one she liked. I did not ever mix it with breast milk. I was a little heartbroken the first time she gulped down a bottle, but also glad that it works for her.
I started by giving her one bottle of 3-4 ounces of formula a day. At this time, I was still pumping and trying to match my output to the amount of formula given. I personally have never been able to pump more than 2-3 ounces total at any given time, and that’s just sometimes. Other times I get nothing out. I just have big issues producing for a pump (and I have used two different pumps and get the same results). I was not interested in pumping multiple times a day again and with a mobile seven month old, it was even less appealing.
I decided to give up pumping altogether and started using more bottles. This has been going on for about a month and I have honestly noticed little difference in my supply. This totally surprised me. I know it will catch up eventually and my supply will be gone, but as I’ve used more and more bottles, breastfeeding seems very not affected, which is great. I seriously thought using one bottle a day every day would dry me up so fast.
The stage Claire is in right now, it’s very hard to feed her during the day anyway. She is so distracted. Unless we are at home in her room in the rocking chair and she is sleepy, she really will not nurse. So using bottles during the day has been really helpful to help me feel like she is getting enough food. She now takes two to three 4 ounce bottles a day. Usually as soon as she wakes up, she feeds easily. Then she gets a morning bottle, a bottle any time we go out (mostly to keep her occupied and help us make it through Target in one piece!), and sometimes an afternoon or before bed bottle.
She still nurses to sleep for every nap and throughout the night. Sometimes I send my husband in with a bottle in the middle of the night if I am not up for getting up or if I feel she is truly super hungry. So far, it is working great.
Because we are close to a year, I chose to stop pumping and let nursing phase out whenever it may. It’s hard to think about “giving up” on nursing, but after the months of pumping multiple times during the day (or sometimes pumping on the other side while nursing) and seeing Claire still not gain well, I am ready to let nursing phase out. I’d love to still be nursing her past a year if that’s what she wants, but I have a feeling it will be for comfort/going to sleep a lot more than it will be for nutrition.
I don’t feel like I’m giving up on nursing at all, though. I know there will be hardcore people out there that think I could have made breastfeeding work without formula and that breastfeeding should trump all. She was exclusively breastfed for seven months, though, so I think that’s pretty dedicated. Her weight was a concern and despite pumping, trying all the teas and silly ways to boost your supply, I wasn’t getting more milk and she wasn’t gaining any better.
Claire is still on the low side for weight but she always has been. The goal of supplementing was not to make her fat by any means and I really can’t change her genetics if she’s just going to be a small girl. But I have seen such a difference in her. She is finally chunky and thick feeling to me. The doctor was finally happy with her weight curve at the last appointment we had.
And it just helps me out so much. I don’t have to worry any more about going out and not being able to feed her because she refuses to nurse in public. Now I can actually go into a store with a bottle and finish our shopping trip. And we are still enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding too.
Before venturing into supplementing, I thought doing both formula and breastfeeding would never work. I was convinced you had to choose one or the other, but that’s so far from the truth. Supplementing is not the end of nursing always but has proved to be tremendously helpful for both baby and me.
If anything changes in the next few months, I’ll come back and update this post or write a new one on how the rest of breastfeeding went. Thanks for listening to our journey!
Questions for You:
- Do you have any more questions about how I went about this?
- What stigmas have you believed about breastfeeding or formula feeding?