My one-month-old doesn’t seem satisfied after feeding. Should I give her a bottle?
Babies who latch on and suck well, and who breastfeed frequently throughout the day and night will get all the nourishment they need from the breast. Checking the signs listed under Getting Enough Milk? can reassure you that you have enough milk and baby is well-fed. Even during the first days of breastfeeding, when your milk has not yet come in and your baby is receiving colostrum, there is usually no need to offer supplements of water, sugar water, or formula.
Supplemental bottles of water and formula are not only unnecessary, they can sabotage breastfeeding. Here’s why breastfed babies should not get routine supplementary bottles:
- Interferes with supply and demand. Water and formula quench babies’ thirst and fill their tummies, so that giving babies bottles containing either one will make them want to nurse less. While it seems as if a bottle might be “insurance” that baby is getting enough milk, giving formula supplements interferes with the balance between mother’s milk supply and baby’s demand. Baby may fill up on formula and therefore not nurse as well at the next feeding. Mother’s breasts get the message that they should make less milk. Soon baby is getting two or three bottles a day, either because mother doesn’t feel she has enough milk or because she’s off doing other things instead of focusing on her baby. The trend continues. Mother’s milk supply fades, along with her confidence, and baby soon is completely weaned to bottles and formula.
- Risks nipple confusion. In the first weeks after birth, offering artificial nipples may cause nipple confusion. Getting milk from a bottle requires different movements of the mouth and tongue. When baby is offered the breast, he may have difficulty latching-on and sucking correctly. Nipple confusion is less of a problem after 4-6 weeks of age, but even older babies may protest when put to the breast if they have become accustomed to the faster milk flow of the bottle.
- Affects long-term breastfeeding. Studies have shown that supplementation, especially in the first few days after birth, negatively influences the duration of breastfeeding. Frequent feeding during the first few weeks postpartum is crucial to having a plentiful milk supply down the road.
- Messes with mother’s mind. The words “in case you don’t have enough milk” plant the seeds of doubt in mother’s mind, and one way or another, they can keep a mother from making enough milk. When people suggest that your milk supply is inadequate, you may be quick to conclude that baby’s fussiness, wakefulness or sleepiness (or anything else your baby is doing) means baby is not getting enough milk. Doubt produces confusion about how to interpret baby’s cues and worries about him being hungry. Supplementary bottles look like the solution to your dilemma, but depending on supplements will make it impossible for you to learn to read your baby’s breastfeeding cues. You’ll nurse your baby less, and eventually, you won’t have enough milk.
- Keeps you from trying better solutions. If you have concerns about your milk supply, clicking into the bottle mindset keeps you from experimenting with techniques that will help your body make more milk. Go to Increasing Your Milk Supply for options that work with your biology, not against it.
Occasionally, because of medical complications or because baby is having difficulty learning to latch on and suck efficiently, supplements are necessary. This is usually a temporary situation. Supplements can be given using alternatives to bottles. The best supplement is mother’s own milk, obtained with a breast pump or by hand expression.