Weaning Your Baby Off Breastfeeding Supplements

Expert advice on how to gradually remove formula from the feeding plan

If you have had significant breastfeeding problems — this can include difficulty getting the baby to latch or breastfeed effectively or severely sore nipples, as well as having a slow gaining baby or a baby that, when a preemie, was given bottles — you might find yourself in a situation where you are both breastfeeding and supplementing with bottles of expressed breast milk or formula. For many mothers, this falls short of their original goal to exclusively breastfeed in order to provide the optimum nutrition and immune system boost that direct breastfeeding affords. If you are currently providing breastfeeding supplements to your baby and would like to work toward your goal to breastfeed, it's encouraging to know that it's entirely possible to achieve. Anytime you use a breastfeeding supplement — any food or milk the baby takes other than direct breastfeeding — and if you decide to wean off of supplements, it's important to work with your baby's doctor and a lactation consultant, or LC. (You can find an LC through the International Lactation Consultant Association.)

Understand the underlying problem
Be sure the underlying problem that led to the need for breastfeeding supplements has been addressed and resolved. In other words, if the supplements were needed because the baby wasn't gaining weight well, it's important to be sure a good gain pattern has been established before reducing the supplements. It would also be important to identify the underlying cause, such as a shallow latch, and to make sure it's been corrected. Again, it's important to review any plan with both the pediatrician and your LC and follow their recommendations closely. The baby should also go to the pediatrician once a week for a weight check until the transition from supplements to breastfeeding is complete.

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