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Is it possible...?
Is it possible to stop supplementing with formula and totally switch to pure breast milk?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I received from our readers.
To be honest, as a mom with mixed feeding history, this question is difficult to answer.
I myself, was not able to wean from formula until my son (first baby) was 18 months old back then (yet, I was soo happy to be able to finally breastfeed him again – no formula needed, even though it was so so late).
That does not mean it is not possible.
I’ve heard a lot of successful stories on how a mom was able to transition to fully breastfeeding from the initial supplementation.
And today, I am so lucky to present one success story here.
Meet Canny Ong
She is a first-time mom, who once struggled to breastfeed her baby (with 80% supplementation + 20% breast milk).
But with her persistence efforts, she is able to mostly breastfeed her baby (pushing the supplementation down to only 20% by the end of the third month, the rest is pure breast milk).
What an achievement!
I believe you must be super curious, what did she do to boost her milk supply to be finally on par with her baby's demand?
Let's hear her story out.
THE EARLY DAYS OF BREASTFEEDING
Most of my pregnancy timing is in Singapore until 37 weeks, in which I went back to Malaysia for the scheduled c-section.
During my pregnancy, I was quite determined to breastfeed after I gave birth.
I was thinking that breastfeeding was an easy job.
Just buy a breast pump and nursing cover and I’d good to go..
"Never did I know that it was a bitter sweet memory."
So my son was born on 27/5/16.
I demanded the nurse to bring my son for every feeding and the nurse was just following.
There was no lactation consultant or anyone who can teach me how to breastfeed and latch the baby even though I did a bit of reading during my pregnancy.
My milk did not kick in at all until the 3rd day.
The fact that my son has G6PD deficiency made him more prone to jaundice, which started on day 2.
I remember my 3rd day pumping in hospital and I only have a few drops of colostrum.
My hubby laughed at me for that when I ask nurse for syringe to suck that 2 drops for my son.
I just told him off that it's the first precious things in the world that nobody can buy with money/exchange with whatever you have.
My son had to undergo phototherapy everyday from 2nd day to 6th day.
We were discharged on the 6th day happily thinking was easy.
Turns out, everything was not easy at all.
I do not have a confinement lady as my grandma offered to cook for me.
So all other things, I need to be on myself.
My son’s bilirubin level shoot up again after he went for check-up in another 2 days (8th day) and again, he got admitted for double phototherapy again.
I went 3 times a day to the hospital to latch him at the nursing room beside the nursery.
I told the nurse I need to feed him.
Luckily, the doctor was okay and advised to continue breastfeeding.
Due to his demand, I needed to continue to supplement after every direct latch.
WHAT CANNY DID TO INCREASE HER MILK SUPPLY
1.Pumping, pumping and a lot of pumping.
- I tried tandem nursing-pumping.
- I pumped 8x a day after every latch.
- I pumped twice after midnight: 1am and 4am (I noticed that midnight pump yield more than normal timing (during the day).
- I also did power pumping every 2 days whenever I had time when my son was asleep.
Somehow, power pumping during midnight did help increasing my supply.
2.All sort of milk boosters
I took a lot milk booster that everyone said that can boost the supply.
- I have tried raw fenugreek..took it 3x a day.
- Fenugreek pill twice a day.
- Oats with Milo/Horlicks every tea time /supper.
- Papaya soup with fish.
You name it all..
Even lactation cookie is not working on me.
So, in the end, I just eat as per normal, pay attention to more nutritious food so that my milk is in better quality.
3. Keep latching
Even though I need to supplement after every latch, I kept latching my son.
To the point that my nipples were swollen and sore.
I could even feel the pain while I took a shower.
But this too, eventually becomes better and much better.
"With all these efforts, I managed to slowly his formula feed to only 1 times before 11 pm. It used to be 80% formula milk and 20% breast milk."
PS: If you are looking for more resources on how to totally wean from supplementation, you can learn more step by step details in Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West (available in Kindle).
RETURNING BACK TO WORK
During the 3rd month, my son started to be more clinging and do not want any bottle but OMG I was going back to work and I don’t even have any single packet of frozen milk.
To compensate on that, I have requested donor milk from another breastfeeding mummy.
I thought my son would be okay.
But after 1 week, he started to reject all the frozen milk.
To make things worst, everyone around me (extended family members) was scolding me, telling me why do you give your son other people’s milk.
I was so angry at them because they kept criticizing whatever I do.
When I breastfeed my son, they told me that I didn’t give my son enough milk.
When I got more breast milk from another mom, they also complained, to the point as if I was poisoning my son...
There were also times when I was so determined to build a lot of freezer stash, just like everyone’s determination before going back to work.
But then, I realized that I should feed my child and not the fridge.
I thought that I accumulated all the pumped milk into the milk bags makes me happy but no...
I should be feeding my child so that he is healthy and growing up.
So from that moment, I started to just latch whenever I am with my son..
Nowadays I pump twice at work.
And I just latch after I am off from work.
And guess what..
I hardly encounter blocked duct at all.
Engorgement, mastitis or whatever pain or inconvenience like leaking when sleeping like everyone said in the Facebook groups, I’ve never experienced any of these.
God in another way help me, too.
Although I am a today pump for tomorrow mum
I am very happy now.
ADVICE FOR OTHER SUPPLEMENTING MOMS WHO WANT TO INCREASE THEIR MILK SUPPLY
I would advice that the best way to increase the supply would be pumping, but do not over pump.
- 8-10x per day for the first 3 months, every pump is 15-20mins max.
- Power pump in the midnight 3am-4am.
That's the hard work I put in.
With these, I was able to increase my pumping yield from 2 oz to 4 oz per pumping session.
For some people, they can easily achieve more than that, but for me I am very happy with my result.
2. Keep the stress away
It’s easy to feel discouraged when everyone is posting (in Fb groups / forums) how much stash they have in the fridge.
Don’t stress out too much about it.
Every mom has different supply, but the most important thing is to provide ENOUGH for the baby, not building a huge stash.
3. Seek out for supports
I am grateful that my husband is supportive of breastfeeding from the beginning.
Also, I am so grateful to be part of TBAN (The Breastfeeding Advocates Network – Fb group) and other breastfeeding groups. These groups have helped a lot during those time I was still struggling to breastfeed.
I knew some moms who have to wean off or did not start breastfeeding due to unsupportive family and partner.
I highly encourage these moms to join any breastfeeding support groups. They totally understand what you feel because they have been or are in your shoes. They are also very quick in offering suggestions. It feels like you are not alone in this journey.
4. Don’t give up too soon!
Breastfeeding journey is not easy and I feel that a lot of moms are giving up too soon..
I would suggest that at least breastfeed until 1 year old.
If possible, then can continue as long as possible.
"Determination and perseverance is the key to successful breastfeeding."
BREASTFEEDING KEEPS MY SON HEALTHY
My son is going to be 1 year old soon.
I am super happy that he is a healthy son.
Breast milk is amazing..., so far, my son only fell sick twice.
And he recovered quite fast, in 1-2 days.
And there was once I never told anyone about this story because I felt guilty as I know my son allergy to eggs and I accidentally fed him some runny eggs white
And because he had allergy, his whole face was swollen/eyes swollen and I was super panic and wanted to cry out.
How can I be so stupid to feed him uncooked eggs..which he was allergy too.
We were outside at that time and my son was screaming like a hell that never happened before. He never cry n scream whenever we're outside
We quickly get out from the cafe and ran to the car.
The first thing my hubby told me is quickly latch him.
He is very supportive when early time I told him that breast milk is the best thing I can give to our child and please do not say anything on breast milk.
So I latched while my hubby is driving fast to look for a clinic.
I latched and latched my son until he felt asleep and his swollen face started to reduce and back to normal only after 15 mins.
This is the proof that breast milk really is the most amazing liquid in the universe..haha
My son till now does not sleep through the night.
He still wakes up for comfort latch twice.
But he is doing great in the day..
He is very social with other people and does not crying often.
He also learns very fast.
I also enjoy the bonding with my son through direct latch. It feels wonderful...!
Thank you, Canny for sharing your story with us.
I believe a lot of moms will be motivated with your story.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM CANNY'S STORY
(1) Early days in breastfeeding is very critical to your milk production.
Canny was very lucky to have a very supportive doctor who supports her to continue breastfeeding while her son was undergoing phototherapies.
For a note: some doctors may not understand that it may take time for milk to kick in (mine was on day 5) and to have a doctor who fully support your breastfeeding effort is really important.
I used to see a doctor who criticized me of not eating enough and thus not able to produce enough milk for my first baby (-> very discouraging for a postpartum – sleepless – super-tired first-time mom). I was so lucky that my second experience was much much better.
(2) It takes time to increase your milk production (definitely not overnight), especially if you started with major supplementation.
"Be patient, be determined, and be persistent."
Go back to the basic theory of milk production.
You need to stimulate your breast frequently (be it with direct latch or pumping) to be able to produce enough for your baby.
Some moms are lucky to find milk booster that’s suitable for them, but if you are not, don’t worry.
A lot of moms don’t rely on milk boosters (Canny and I included =D) and we survived!
- Keep latching
- Frequent pumping to further stimulate your production
- Power pumping (as Canny mentioned, midnight pump is powerful!)
(3) One last note from me: for moms who successfully breastfeed from the start.
Be extra careful when offering suggestions / comments / advise to moms who struggled to breastfeed.
You see.., we are super sensitive.
Even seeing a picture of bottles of breast milk in the group can make us feel disappointed with ourselves.
Some comments may not be intentionally hurting, but for a mixed-feed mom can be too hurtful, something like ‘be careful with supplementing, else your supply may dry up like that other mom’, or simply telling that ‘I used to leak so much until my bed and baby are all wet’.
These are not helping at all.
Rather than giving comments like these, it is better tell that you are here in any case you need help.
This is more comforting.
Anyone feeling the same?
I hope this little story can motivate you to continue providing breast milk for your baby, and if you are supplementing, hopefully this will give you ideas how you, too, can stop supplementing with formula and switch totally to breastfeeding.
Remember, no matter how little breast milk that you have, you are still a breastfeeding mom, you give your best to your baby.
So, be proud of yourself!
3. If you plan to build a decent stash before returning to work, check out my latest Build Your Breast Milk Bootcamp.