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Breastfeeding: What Am I Supplementing With?

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of bottle feeding? If you thought of infant formula, you're not alone.

A breast milk supplement is anything other than the milk your baby drinks directly from your breasts. It also includes your own breast milk when it has been pumped.

Mothers pump their breast milk for different reasons. They might be returning to work, going out for an evening or having problems in the early days of breastfeeding if they're baby isn't latching properly or they have a low milk supply.

Whatever the reason, the best choice for a supplement is your own expressed breast milk. However, sometimes that just isn't possible, and that's OK—the top priority is that your baby receives proper nourishment and gains weight at a healthy rate. If expressed breast milk isn't an option, the second choice is pasteurized human milk, which often comes from a milk bank. Although it's a good option, the downside is that it isn't always accessible.

Another choice is infant formula. It's often recommended in the first few days of breastfeeding if you're having problems, since colostrum is hard to express or pump. Formula is also recommended if your milk volume is low and your baby isn't getting enough at the breast. Glucose water is yet another choice.

If you need to use any type of supplement, don't worry that it's the beginning of the end of breastfeeding. Keep breastfeeding your baby frequently, working on your latch and ensuring that she's feeding effectively. If you follow a regular plan of pumping after every feeding, your breasts should respond by making more milk. As a result, the need to use supplementation will drop and, in most cases, disappear altogether.

Tips for success

  • If you baby isn't getting enough at the breast, try supplementing first with your own expressed breast milk.
  • If your milk volume is low, you'll need to use another form of supplementation, either milk from a milk bank or infant formula.
  • Keep breastfeeding frequently throughout any type of supplementation. This will help your baby become a better feeder and maintain and increase your milk supply.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)