This is Part Two in our supplementation series. Don’t miss Part One: I’m Told that my Breastfed Baby Needs to be Supplemented…. What Should I Do?
One of the most challenging aspects of supplementing your breastfed baby is knowing when and how you can reduce or completely stop that supplementation. You will want to work with your pediatrician and an IBCLC to help fine tune this process for you and your baby, but here are some general guidelines.
The reason you were supplementing may determine when you can stop
Early supplementation in the first few days after your baby was born may have been recommended to help resolve a temporary medical situation, such as jaundice, hypoglycemia, or excessive weight loss. Typically, once your milk supply has fully ‘come in’ and baby is gaining well, supplementation can stop. Longer-term supplementation, such as for a premature baby, baby with feeding challenges, or a breastfeeding parent working to increase milk supply, will likely require a longer weaning process. In both cases, though, watching the baby for signs of effective breastfeeding will be an important part of baby's care.
How do I know if my baby is breastfeeding well?
There are quite a few ways we can tell that a baby is breastfeeding well
Baby actively feeds for 20-40 minutes, seems satisfied after eating, and can go about 2-3 hours between most feedings
Breastfeeding is comfortable and your breasts feel softer after your baby has fed
Diaper count - Babies in the first few weeks to months should pee/poop at least 5 times a day. As babies mature, so do their digestive systems. After the first few months, babies often continue to pee at least 5 times daily, but poop frequency may drop to 1-2 times daily
When you weigh your baby before and after a breastfeeding session (like with a gram-sensitive scale at a breastfeeding consultation or support group), your baby is taking in an appropriate amount for his/her age and weight.
Weight gain - Baby is gaining the appropriate amount of weight based on his/her age
What is the best way to wean from supplementing my breastfed baby?
As your baby begins to breastfeed more effectively and transfer more milk from you while breastfeeding, you might also notice that your baby begins to refuse supplements (or just takes less) after breastfeeding. If your baby is gaining weight well, then you might consider offering less of a ‘top off’ after breastfeeding and see if your baby continues to gain weight well. If your baby is gaining more weight than expected for his/her age, this is also a reason to pull back on supplementation.
To wean from supplementing your baby, you will want to either reduce the amount of supplementation after each breastfeeding session or cut back on how often you supplement during the day. Try this reduced supplement amount for a few days and see if your baby still seems satisfied after eating throughout the day and night, as well as check your baby’s weight to make sure he/she gained enough over that time period. If weight gain is still more than needed/expected and your baby seems satisfied after eating, continue to pull back on the amount of supplement per day until you reach a point where you have either cut supplementing completely or dropped down to your baby’s sweet spot.
While reducing the supplementation amount, this also means that you might be able to cut back on the number of times you pump per day, which is what every parent wants to hear, right? A lactation consultant can definitely guide you on this process so that your milk supply isn’t lowered with this decrease in pumping frequency.
What if I am unable to wean from supplementing my baby?
There are some situations when a breastfeeding parent may not have a full milk supply and will need to supplement long term. Working with a lactation consultant can be very valuable during this process to help maximize your milk supply potential, as well as discuss options for long-term supplementation.
It is incredibly important for any parent needing to provide long-term supplementation to understand that EVERY drop of breastmilk you produce for your child is valuable. You are creating a perfect food for your child, as well as providing amazing immunity-boosting benefits that only YOU can create. Your milk was meant for your baby and breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing. While it can feel absolutely heartbreaking to hear that exclusive breastfeeding may not be a possibility, I’d like to share a beautifully written breastfeeding memoir on our website. The author, Aran, brilliantly coins a new term, ‘Inclusive breastfeeding’, which helps put all of this breastfeeding and supplementation into perspective.
So, what additional questions do you have about weaning your breastfed baby from supplements? Feel free to add a comment here and we will gladly offer advice!
And, if you need some guidance on how to navigate your supplementation journey, book an appointment with us, as we would love to help!
To book an appointment at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, click here!
If you don’t live in San Diego and would like to book a virtual consultation, email Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for a lactation consultant in your area, click here for ILCA’s Find a Lactation Consultant Directory