How To Prepare For Supplementing When Breastfeeding Your Baby In The Hospital

Mothers who experienced delayed onset of milk production or experienced low milk supply with their first baby often contact us for support to try breastfeeding again. They typically have anticipatory anxiety because they have lost trust in their lactation professionals and hospital staff and are unwilling to attempt breastfeeding again without supplementation. They want to know how to supplement their baby until their milk supply becomes sufficient to feed them safely while providing proper breastfeeding stimulation for optimal milk production.

The most common concerns expressed:

  • Fear of the pressure to exclusively breastfeed
  • Fear of failing to breastfeed again
  • Fear of advocating for themselves and their babies while in the hospital
  • Fear of being shamed by hospital staff when wanting to supplement until their milk comes in
  • Fear of being denied formula or not receiving it promptly
  • Triggers from the previous negative breastfeeding experience, such as being touched without consent

Monica writes: “I lost confidence in breastfeeding because I didn’t make enough milk for my first son, who required hospitalization for severe jaundice and a 13% weight loss. I was devastated and furious when the neonatologist told me he was starving. In my birth hospital, my son had been forced to cry from hunger, and I was told my body would make enough milk for him by every lactation consultant and nurse in the hospital. I trusted them. They were wrong! I no longer trusted breastfeeding and decided to pump and bottle feed to ensure he got enough milk. I purposely delivered my second baby at a hospital that didn’t force me to breastfeed exclusively. After starving my son,  I was not taking any chances, and I supplemented my daughter after every breastfeeding session. My breastfeeding experience was the opposite of my son’s, and I remember tearing up several times because she was so peaceful and never cried.  Thankfully I supplemented her because it took five days for my milk to come in. Supplementing saved my breastfeeding journey, and we are still breastfeeding 19 months later.”

 

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The New Seven Letter “F” Word

As soon as the word “formula” rolls off your tongue and leaves your mouth for everyone to hear, uncomfortable silence occurs. Parents are reluctant to talk about or admit freely they feed their babies infant formula. Most are suffering from the deeply entrenched shame and judgment that is associated with formula feeding; they have experienced it first hand in countless social media parenting groups, from friends, their health care professionals, WIC offices, and even in their hospitals.

How did we get to the place where talking about infant formula is profoundly divisive, shameful, and anxiety provoking for parents? 

 Let’s face it, infant FORMULA is the new seven letter F word. The scarlet letter F.  FAILURE. 

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My Breastfed Baby Starved While Under The Care Of Health Professionals For 5 Weeks

My beautiful baby girl Mary-Kate was delivered by emergency c-section, and although there were complications during labor, she was healthy on arrival. Having done a bit of research and listened to the advice of professionals, as well as the threat of the global pandemic posing a risk, I decided I would breastfeed my daughter, to provide her with passive antibodies for COVID-19 from my milk.

I began exclusively breastfeeding in the hospital and the midwife said Mary-Kate had the perfect latch. I loved being a mummy, I could not stop looking at this beautiful little human me and my partner had created, but Mary-Kate was becoming increasingly unsettled. She was almost always attached to my breast and would fall asleep soon after latching on. I spoke to the health visitors, and we were told her crying was colic.  We began giving Mary-Kate lots of colic-type remedies. 

Each time somebody came to weigh her whether it be the GP, HV, or Midwife, Mary-Kate was not gaining and was in fact losing weight. I could not understand, because she was ALWAYS feeding. Nobody seemed alarmed by this. I was told to just keep trying, she might be a ‘slow starter’. Never once did they check to see what my milk supply was or how much she was getting. The professionals would leave, and I would carry on as normal. Baby attached to the breast, me trying to maintain some sort of order in the home, taking care of my personal needs and sleep. Mary-Kate would just cry and cry and cry unless asleep at my breast.  I was exhausted, I was falling asleep whilst holding my baby and I knew this presented its own risks.  Continue reading

Why Fed Is Best: From One Therapist’s Point Of View

Written by Sarah Edge

I am a Counsellor Psychotherapist, specialising in postnatal mental health in the United Kingdom. I am also a Mum of two small children. I recently wrote a guest blog on “The Process of Healing From Infant Feeding Trauma, Guilt, and Shame: When You Wanted To Breastfeed and Couldn’t” for the Fed is Best Foundation, and when I was asked to write again, I jumped at the chance. In this piece, I aim to examine the Fed is Best message through my therapist’s lens and discuss why the Fed is Best message is an essential part of healing and recovery. 

It is well known amongst those in the psychology field, whether it be researchers, psychologists, or therapists, that people are often drawn to study and work in a field where they have personal experience. The well-regarded and highly accomplished trauma academic Bessel Van Der Kolk has described his own research as “self-search.” And most have heard of the phrase “the wounded healer.” I am no different. I became interested in working therapeutically with postnatal mental health and infant feeding guilt due to my own experience of breastfeeding difficulties.

I personally have a complicated and emotional relationship with infant feeding. I experienced formula feeding my firstborn and breastfeeding my second child. I have personally undergone my own therapy and recovery, meaning I am now able to work safely and supportively with other women experiencing psychological distress compounded by, or sometimes caused by, their infant feeding experiences. But that’s not to say my heart doesn’t ache when I hear a mother sharing her raw and moving story of when breastfeeding didn’t work out. Continue reading

The Process of Healing from Infant Feeding Trauma, Guilt, and Shame: When You Wanted to Breastfeed, but Couldn’t

My name is Sarah Edge, and I am a counsellor psychotherapist and mum of two. After my experience with breastfeeding trauma, guilt, and shame, and the associated decline in my mental health after the birth of my son, I was motivated to start my own practice specialising in postnatal mental health. 

I suspect that most of you reading this are doing so because you have your own experience of infant feeding guilt or trauma, where breastfeeding didn’t work out how you had planned. My personal story is a tale as old as time. My son was born late preterm, healthy but sleepy and unable to latch. He developed significant jaundice and low blood sugars, resulting in us returning to the hospital, and him being admitted onto the children’s ward at five days old.

I tried everything to breastfeed: nipple shields, continuous pumping, cup feeding expressed breast milk, triple feeding, lactation consultants, and infant feeding professionals. I had alarms set every 90 minutes to feed my son, and I kept this up for almost two weeks without any results. His feeding consultant then prescribed him formula milk, and he began to thrive. He was happy and healthy, and we returned home to start our lives as a family of three, this time formula feeding him. 

My baby was finally thriving but I was not. I was left with so much sadness, jealousy, disappointment, and animosity towards breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week was unbearable, as the social media pages were flooded with beautiful photos of babies at breast, and seeing other women breastfeeding sparked this intense and animalistic jealousy I had never felt before. 

So why was I left with all this sadness?

 

Sadness is an emotional pain that is associated with feelings of loss, sorrow, depression, grief, guilt, disappointment, shame, despair, helplessness, fear, and disadvantage.  It can be difficult to shake and needs to be processed.

 

I was personally experiencing grief. I had suffered a loss. Breastfeeding was important to me, and my feelings were—and are—absolutely valid. 

No matter the reasons you could not breastfeed—and there are countless—you are allowed to mourn the loss of breastfeeding. Just because your baby is thriving without breastmilk doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to grieve or ask for support or comfort, especially if healing has been difficult. 

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