We are now five months into our breastfeeding journey. If you missed the beginning of our story, you can read about it here. It is still a struggle, and we don’t quite have a rhythm, but my attitude towards it is different and I think we have more good days than bad now. On a really good day, she will nurse at each feeding before or after a bottle of formula, and may even have a feeding or two without a bottle, and gets about half of what she eats from the breast. I try not to give her a bottle during her nighttime feedings.
Since we have been bottle feeding and breastfeeding, we encountered a new issue. Flow preference. You see, the bottle (even with a slow flow nipple) provides milk much faster and more consistently than the breast. On the breast, baby has to wait for letdown and has to work more to get the milk. Tiny One figured this out and was stating her preference for the bottle by crying whenever I tried to put her to the breast. This started in the evenings, so at first I thought she just wasn’t getting anything from me at that time (I produce more in the mornings, which I think is true of most women). But by around 3 ½ months she started fussing at all of her feedings except when she was sleepy – falling asleep or just waking up. Not only was this making it harder for me to keep up my already-low supply, since supply is dependent on demand, but it is really heartbreaking for me to have her reject the breast.
Once we identified what was happening, I knew we had to figure out how to get her to eat off of the breast again or I had was not going to be able to continue to breastfeed her – and I am not ready to stop. Here is the plan:
1. Slow down the bottle. Since she prefers bottle feeding because it is easier, we decided we needed to make it more difficult. When we had first seen the lactation consultant, she advised that when we give her the bottle, we sit her up and tip the bottle down to slow her down and make it more difficult to get the milk. Unfortunately, Mr. S and I had gotten lazy about that – which is probably how this problem began – so we returned to slowing her down.
2. Feed her the bottle in a nursing position (“bottle nurse”). Even after we slowed down the bottle, she would still scream whenever I put her in a position to eat at the breast. After doing some reading online (there are some awesome moms out there sharing their breastfeeding stories!) I started feeding her the bottle in a cradle position as if I was breastfeeding her, with her head on my breast.
3. Make her latch onto the bottle. I found that occasionally, if I shoved the breast into her mouth like a bottle, she would eat. It did not work every time and it is NOT good breastfeeding practice to do this… making the bottle more like the breast makes more sense. Just put the nipple of the bottle to her lips, then make her open big and latch on. It is also important to get the baby to open big and latch as they should on the breast.
4. Give some formula to take the edge of the hunger, and offer again. Use less than what she would normally eat at a full feeding. I had been just offering before giving the bottle and figured if she didn’t want it then, she just didn’t want it. But the very first time I tried giving her a few ounces and then offering the breast it worked! Now, sometimes she will eat even less than I have in the bottle and start rooting for the breast. It is so exciting when she does that!
(Note: There are other options for these problems, including using other feeding methods instead of the bottle. If the baby will latch, a supplementer is a great thing to use so that you don’t need to use a bottle and then won’t encounter this problem in the first place! Since we already have all of the bottles and accessories, she would not latch, and I know she will get nutrition this way, this is what we decided to do. Each family will have to find what works for them.)
Now, there are still days and times when she is resistant to breastfeeding – occasionally she will refuse the breast all day – but most days we at least get a couple nursing sessions in. I am trying to stay calm and not take it personally when she doesn’t want the breast. I am still pumping several times a day in order to keep my supply up and have breast milk to supplement with – although I am no longer pumping after every session and/or every time she gets a bottle. My goal is to get to the point where solids take over the nutrition given by the formula, so that she gets solids and breast milk (preferably from the breasts) until she self-weans.