Breastfeeding your baby – and when to supplement
New moms often worry if they’re producing enough milk. Lactation consultant Carla Wham, RN, offered advice on what to expect when breastfeeding and when it might be necessary to supplement with formula.
“Babies normally will lose weight the first few days after birth and are usually back to their birth weight within two weeks,” said Wham. “Your baby has a small stomach at first, and you will feed at least eight to 12 times every 24 hours for the first few weeks.”
Keeping track of how often your baby eats and the amount of wet and dirty diapers will help you know if your baby is getting enough.
How often should I breastfeed my baby?
Your milk supply is based on supply and demand. When you feed (or hand express or use a breast pump) regularly, your body will continue to produce breast milk. If you do not feed (or hand express or use a breast pump) regularly, then your body will not continue to produce the amount of milk your baby needs.
“Feed your infant based on the information your pediatrician and nurses give you,” said Wham. “It’s an amazing thing that your body produces the amount of milk your infant needs – and that milk is constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby.”
Wham recommends waiting about a month before introducing bottles and pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established.
When should I supplement with formula?
In some cases, it is medically necessary to give your infant milk substitute in addition to mother’s breast milk. Your pediatrician and nurses will discuss this situation with you. However, in many circumstances, your baby will not need anything other than your breast milk.
“Our goal is to educate you on breastfeeding and its benefits as well as the risk of using a supplement so that you can make an educated decision for you and your family,” said Wham.
Mothers sometimes wonder if their baby is getting enough milk because their babies want to breastfeed more than they expected. This is normal. Early, frequent feeding helps your body establish your milk supply. Most mothers make plenty of milk for their infant without the need to supplement with formula.
Wham recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months because breast milk is all that infants need during that time. In fact, supplementing with unnecessary formula or foods can cause issues such as:
- A decrease in your milk supply
- Breast engorgement (early on)
- An increased risk for your baby to develop allergies, diabetes or obesity
If you’re concerned about your milk supply or have questions, contact a lactation specialist for advice.
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