Making breastfeeding more manageable

By St. Vincent Hospital lactation expert Christin Erwin MA, RD, IBCLC

When it comes to breastfeeding, there is a lot of room between all and nothing.  Often times, new moms think that they have to pick between exclusively breastfeeding or exclusively bottle-feeding. But, there are actually many different combinations that can fit into your lifestyle and many ways to define a successful breastfeeding experience. Here are some tips that can help make the entire process easier on mom and baby:

  1. Sometimes when a baby is born, mothers may need to supplement with formula until their breast milk supply is established. This can be due to infant weight loss, jaundice, multiples or numerous other medical factors.  During this time, it’s a good idea for new moms to pump in order to help insure an adequate milk supply later.  One way to stay on track is for the mother to pump whenever baby is taking a supplement of formula.  Any milk that a mother expresses can be stored and given to the infant later.
  2. Some mothers choose to only breastfeed in the first few weeks and then begin to introduce formula before they go back to work.  Depending on the length of maternity leave, new moms would want to replace one breastfeeding session during the day with a formula feeding before returning to work and increase the forumla feedings each week.  For example: If a mom works 8am-5pm with a 30 minute commute each way, she would be away from her baby for a total of 10 hours a day.  Three weeks before returning to work, she should replace a noontime breastfeeding with a bottle.  Two weeks before going back to work, she would add the replacement of a 3:00pm breastfeeding with a bottle.  Then, one week before going back she would add the replacement of a 9:30 breastfeeding with a bottle.  Mom may need to pump for comfort, but if she is not planning on pumping once back to work, she will not want to pump all of her milk. Her body will learn to adjust and stop making milk during the hours she is away at work.  This system would allow mom to breastfeed her baby before work, when she gets home, before bed and through the night, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship, without having to pump at work.
  3. Some mothers want to pump while at work, but the thought of pumping three times during an eight-hour day doesn’t seem feasible.  These moms can make breastfeeding work by replacing two feedings a day with formula and pump once in the middle of the day. If a new mother lives close to their childcare, they can breastfeed before leaving and then visit their baby during their lunch to nurse.  Any additional feedings while mom is away could be given using milk mom had pumped at home, or formula.
  4. Sleep deprived moms may find relief by relying on dad at night to feed baby one bottle of either expressed breast milk pumped earlier in the day, or formula until milk is well established.  This allows mom to get a longer stretch of sleep and helps make long-term breastfeeding more manageable.
  5. If a mother is not comfortable putting her baby to breast or if her baby has difficulty latching onto the breast, pumping to bottles is an excellent option.
It is important to remember that new moms must define breastfeeding success in their own way.  The lactation consultants at St. Vincent can help develop a plan, in the hospital or once at home, that will work based on each individual new mother’s needs.

If you’re looking for a doctor, start here.  Have questions? We’re here to help. You can call 317-338-4HER to talk to a registered nurse.

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