Seek guidance from your child health nurse and/or lactation consultant
If you are thinking about weaning off formula supplements, it is important to do so with guidance from your child health nurse and/or lactation consultant. ABA counsellors can also offer support along the way. How quickly you may be able to wean off formula supplements depends on the reason(s) why you are using formula supplements in the first place, the age of your baby and how much formula your baby is having.
When weaning off formula supplements, the aim is to increase your baby’s breastmilk intake while decreasing the amount of formula supplements, so that the baby’s intake remains as a healthy volume.
Information for your child health nurse and/or lactation consultant
Before talking with your child health nurse and/or lactation consultant, it can help to record information over a few days about:
· how much formula your baby is having in a 24-hour period
· how many breastfeeds your baby is having in a 24-hour period
· how much expressed breastmilk your baby may be having in a 24-hour period
· what sort of breast pump you may be using
· how many heavy wet nappies your baby has in a 24-hour period
· the colour of your baby’s urine
· how many bowel motions your baby has in a 24-hour period
· the colour and consistency of your baby’s bowel motions
· how content your baby generally is after feeds.
Making a plan
Answers to these questions will help to work out a plan to increase your breastmilk supply as you gradually wean off the formula supplements. When reducing formula supplements, it is important to monitor your baby’s output (the number of wet and dirty nappies), which will indicate if your baby is getting enough milk. Frequent visits to your child health nurse are also important while reducing formula supplements, to have your baby’s growth (weight, height and head circumference) closely monitored (eg about weekly).
Tips for reducing formula supplements
Generally, and depending on the situation, a small amount (eg 30 mL) of formula may be reduced over an entire day and replaced with more frequent breastfeeds (aiming for 8–12 breastfeeds in a 24-hour period). This will help to increase your supply.
When your baby continues to show signs of getting enough milk, you may be able to reduce the formula by another small amount every few days. Again, be guided by your child health nurse and/or lactation consultant.
If at any point your baby’s weight gains or output (the number of wet and dirty nappies) are reduced, then you can stay for several days or more at the same supplement level, concentrating on frequent breastfeeds, or go back to the previous supplement level before trying to reduce it again.
Some mothers find it motivating to give their baby their expressed breastmilk as a supplement rather than formula. Generally, a baby who breastfeeds well is better at removing milk from your breast than a pump, but some mothers find expressing helps to increase their supply. When expressing, the aim is to remove more milk from your breasts and to keep your breasts more drained more often — both of which help to increase your milk supply.
This article Which breast pump is right for you? can help you to work out which pump may be best suited to your needs.
If your baby is not breastfeeding, you will need to express more often than you have been to increase your milk supply. For tips on expressing, see the article Exclusive expressing.
If your baby breastfeeds, but does not drain your breast well, expressing after feeds can help to increase your milk supply.
If your baby drains your breasts well, then offering more frequent breastfeeds is the most helpful way to boost your milk supply. If there happen to be situations where your baby cannot be offered another breastfeed, then expressing between breastfeeds can also help to boost your milk supply.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association August 2017