Breastfeeding and cocaine use
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Sally Tedstone
Breastfeeding Expert Midwife and Breastfeeding Educator with UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative
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Stopping breastfeeding and mixed feeding

When you are stopping breastfeeding, you need to take care to avoid engorgement and mastitis. Don't stop in one day. Instead, drop one feed every few days to slowly reduce your milk supply.
Video Tutorial
In Short
Stop breastfeeding slowly over a long period of time to prevent engorgement and to help your baby get used to a new method of feeding.

Even if you are going back to work, you can continue to breastfeed your baby before you leave for work and when you get home, it can be a lovely bonding time for mothers who have returned to work.

Mixed feeding will reduce your milk supply.

How to stop breastfeeding

When you are stopping breastfeeding, you need to take care to avoid engorgement and mastitis. Don’t stop in one day. Instead, drop one feed every few days to slowly reduce your milk supply. Remember that your baby breastfeeds for comfort as well as for food so the more gently you phase out breastfeeds the better for both you and your baby. Make sure to offer lots of cuddles to baby to help them make the transition.

Use savoy cabbage or cool packs in your bra to soothe hot or engorged breasts.

See your doctor quickly if you think you have mastitis.

If your baby goes on breastfeeding , keep expressing milk to feed them and avoid engorgement. If you are going back to work, you can still breastfeed in the evenings and at night.

Stopping breastfeeding when going back to work

Many mothers choose keep breastfeeding in the evening and at night after they have returned to work. It can be a lovely reunion to snuggle up and feed your baby when you get back from work and will provide you both with feelings of calm after a possibly stressful day. Start preparing a few weeks before you return to work to gradually reduce your day time supply. It may be that you need to express milk during your lunch break for a couple of weeks while your breasts adjust to the change. You can keep this milk in a cooler bag for your baby to have next day.

Talk to your health visitor or breastfeeding supporter about developing an individualized plan as this will vary according to your work pattern.

Mixed or combination feeding

milk in baby bottle

Instead of stopping breastfeeding altogether, consider mixed or combination feeding.

Will combined feeding or mixed feeding give my baby more milk?

For optimal health, exclusive breastfeeding is what is recommended for around the first 6 months of life unless your baby is receiving prescribed supplementary formula feeds due to poor growth or ‘faltering growth.’

If you are worried about how much milk your baby is getting, it is better for their long-term health to get help to build up your milk supply rather than supplement with formula milk. For more information on successfully building up your milk supply look at our article on ‘Is my baby getting enough milk?’

Risks of combined or mixed feeding

There are two main risks to switching away from purely breastfeeding that you need to bear in mind:

  • effect on your breast milk production. Introducing formula milk will fill your baby up and reduce the number of feeds he takes from you. This will, in turn, alter your production so that you make less milk and the more formula you give the greater the impact on your milk production.
  • effect of introducing formula milk to your baby’s gut. When colostrum and mature breast milk enter your baby’s gut they help to line it with a protective layer which promotes optimal gut flora.

You might have decided that you will partly breastfeed your baby and partly formula feed them. In this case, your milk supply will reduce over time. It might not happen quickly though since your breasts will initially still be expecting your baby to be breastfeeding. However, there are some things you can do to keep your milk supply going as any breastmilk your baby receives is important for their health and for yours. The health benefits of breastfeeding are dose related so the more breastfeeding you do the better but any breastfeeding is better than none. You remain a breastfeeding mother as long as you continue to provide any breastmilk and the additional comfort and closeness you and your baby will have from the times you spend breastfeeding are also so important for you both.

So in order to maintain your breastmilk supply whilst introducing formula milk these are some things you need to consider to maximize your breastmilk supply and help ensure that the one or two bottles of formula don’t lead to you stopping breastfeeding completely because of a dwindling milk supply.

  • Try not to introduce any formula whilst establishing your milk supply in the early weeks as this is important for long term milk production
  • Avoid giving the formula during the evening or night time as this is when the milk making hormones are particularly active
  • Start by giving expressed breastmilk before moving on to formula when baby has become more used to the different feeding
  • Decide roughly on a time when you will give the bottle (i.e morning between 9-11am) and stick to this rather than slipping in extra bottles at varying times each day. If you want to increase the number of bottles do this gradually at set times.
  • Continue to offer breastfeeds in between times and don’t be tempted to cut these feeds short or to top up with formula afterwards.
  • Understanding how to mixed feed and maintain your milk supply to be able to breastfeed can take a bit of thinking about. Your local breastfeeding support or healthcare professional can give you support to help you make informed decisions.
Can I start breastfeeding again once I’ve stopped breastfeeding?

The simple answer is ‘yes you can’! You might have tried formula feeding or bottle feeding expressed milk and want to switch back to breastfeeding. Although your body has had signals to stop or reduce milk production, it’s quite possible to increase your supply again and even re-lactate after a period of no breastfeeding.

The main thing to remember is that it will take some time but it’s definitely worth persevering. Follow all the same guidelines as early breastfeeding and your milk supply should build up again. If your baby isn’t enthusiastic about coming back to the breast at first, you may want to do some pumping to stimulate your supply. Spending time cuddling your baby in skin to skin contact will also help boost those milk making hormones. Feed (or pump) little and often is the main rule.

Is there any benefit to mixed feeding versus formula feeding?

Your baby will benefit hugely from breastfeeding. If you are going back to work your baby will really benefit if you offer her a breastfeed before you leave for work and then a feed when you get home, and then depending on her age and stage, feeds at night will stimulate your supply. The benefits to mixed breastfeeding compared to exclusive formula feeding include:

  • Comfort, bonding, skin-to-skin benefits (especially if you’ve been out at work)
  • Disease, allergy-prevention, immunological benefits – may provide some protection
  • Nutritional benefits – breastmilk contains over contains hundreds, possibly thousands of constituents which ensure optimal physical and emotional development for your baby.

Improved oral development (breastfeeding develops the facial and tongue muscles)

Will stopping breastfeeding improve the bond between my partner and my baby?

There is no reason to stop breastfeeding for our partner as they can fully bond with your baby in lots of other ways such as:

  • Skin to skin contact
  • Chatting during bathing and changing
  • Sharing books
  • Cuddles and carrying your baby around in a soft sling

That way your baby can enjoy the huge benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding as well as lots of lovely bonding time.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.