The real formula for success

breastfeeding, skin to skin

The real formula for success

It was 2am + I was in my newly born son’s nursery. The golden light from the salt lamp illuminated the room as I sat down on the grey lounge chair to breastfeed him for the fourth time that night. He was fussy at the breast, likely from my engorged boobs + while I struggled to attach him in my overwhelmingly sleep deprived state, he started to cry. He bobbed his head around frantically, eagerly sucking his hands, while I tried to keep my composure. His cry turned to what my hubby + I affectionately referred to as “billy goat status” where he sounded like a distraught kid. I tried my best to help him to attach properly while a cascade of tears rolled along the bridge of my downward facing nose. It was in that moment I realised how unquestionably hard breastfeeding was + I longed for a magic fix…

breastfeeding, skin to skinMy magic fix came in the form of support. A healthy balance of both professional support including my darling Midwife + Lactation Consultant, along with my personal cheer squad including my hubby, sister + parents. There are many women out there however, who are lulled into believing there is a better magic fix. One they should purchase before their baby is born. This particular fix I’m referring to is infant formula + it concerns me deeply that mums-to-be have been encouraged via a well-known blog recently, to buy this before they have even given birth. Now I know breastfeeding is all-kinds-of-hard. I’ve been there. But having a substitute on hand does not set women up for success, what it actually does is tell them they aren’t enough. Even if women are completely committed to breastfeeding, if they don’t know all the facts, they may be far more willing to reach for the formula (thinking its free of consequences) on one of the many tough days in the first few weeks. Plus, well-meaning but poorly informed partners are more likely to push for formula as a way to “help” + very quickly, a mothers breastfeeding relationship with her baby goes from falling-into-place to a-place-of-jeopardy.

Breastfeeding works on a very simple equation; Demand = Supply. The first six weeks of breastfeeding is the time it takes for the milk making cells in the breasts to learn exactly how much milk they need to make for the baby. Any introduction of formula throughout the influential first six weeks, but anytime in fact, will negatively impact a mother’s milk production. This is because formula sits in a baby’s gut up to three times longer than breastmilk, making a baby full for longer + less likely to want to feed from the breast to both stimulate + maintain an abundant milk supply. Formula use brings detrimental sequels to a baby’s immunity, gut flora + digestion, just to name a few. Furthermore, it is a sure-fire way to sabotage ones breastfeeding journey before it’s even begun.

breastfeed, feeding

Newborn babies are instinctively driven to feed frequently – they are programmed this way. A big part of this is because the gastric emptying time (the time it takes for a baby’s stomach to breakdown breastmilk) is around 90  minutes. Therefore, it is not long before babies have digested their milk + are wanting to feed again. Frequent feeding patterns in breastfed babies are also a theorised protective measure against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), because they are less likely to drift into a deep sleep cycle (which formula fed babies can, because they don’t feel hunger as soon) but will rouse for another feed. Another important point is babies breastfeed for a plethora of reasons outside hunger. Comfort, temperature regulation, belly discomfort, wind pains, overtired, overstimulated + the list goes on… Instead of doubting a mother’s milk supply over her very regular tiny breastfeeder, let’s remember how NORMAL this newborn behaviour actually is.

Rather than encouraging mums-to-be to invest their money in the band aid solution + false economy of formula, a far better fit would be encouraging them to put it towards breastfeeding education + professional support. If women aspire to breastfeed, they should do just that, BREASTFEED. The best thing mama’s can do for their baby in those early days + weeks, is breastfeed them whenever they wish. Yes, it’s going to feel like a whole lotta breastfeeding, but the good news is, this type of feeding will settle down + babies do sink into a more predictable feeding pattern as they grow. Until then, let’s remind mothers to trust their baby + trust their boobs. AND trust Mother Nature, because she sure wouldn’t have based the survival of our species off having a backup tin of powdered milk in the pantry.

16 Comments
  • Sarah
    Posted at 00:58h, 14 May Reply

    Love this whole article but particularly your last line!!

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 06:11h, 14 May Reply

      Haha thank you beauty. Gotta love a line that packs a punch! Lol. Thanks so much for the support x

  • Kayla Smethurst
    Posted at 01:40h, 14 May Reply

    Love this article!! Back in 2014 when I had my first baby formula was pushed on us in hospital as my milk hadn’t come in and I had a big baby….I struggled with breast feeding once home as my MHN assumed I was formula feeding as we had been told to do so in hospital until my milk came in. I was only 22 so quite young and naive, and scared to ask for support.

    Second time around our little girl arrived late January and after discovering your blog I was confident enough to hit that buzzer in hospital every time our girl was feeding to have a midwife ensure she was latching correctly. We have had to work through blood blistered nipples and our little one having tongue tie but are coming up to our 4 month EBF milestone! I could not be happier!

    Thank you Amberly!

    • AmberleyHarris
      Posted at 06:05h, 14 May Reply

      Kayla this is so wonderful. Well done to you for persisting through the hard days. I am beyond thrilled that I could play a part in positively shaping your breastfeeding experience. Keep up the amazing work mama!!! x Amberley

  • Kacey Battenally
    Posted at 07:20h, 14 May Reply

    Love this article! I wish I knew about you when I had my first son I would have had so much confidence and my breastfeeding journey wouldn’t have been a disaster.

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 10:47h, 14 May Reply

      Oh my love I’m so sorry for your breastfeeding challenges. I am delighted you learnt lots from this blog though!! So wonderful 🙂 Keep well x Amberley.

  • Shehara
    Posted at 22:53h, 14 May Reply

    Thank you for your insight and obvious passion for educating mums. I wish you were around when I had my babies , I was mislead with information that possibly moved to both my kids being formula fed from an early time leaving me very stressed and also not confident in my bodies capabilities. Keep up your amazing work!

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 04:24h, 15 May Reply

      Oh me too Shehara!! I am so sorry for the challenges you experienced. Thank you for sharing your story. Stories like yours need to be heard because so many other mother’s can + will benefit. Keep well lovely x

  • Annette Edgar
    Posted at 23:04h, 14 May Reply

    Love that you have used both personal experience and published science to support that breast feeding is best feeding. My only regret is that you, or someone with your insight, were not the voice in my ear when I failed. My failures were for all of the reasons you have now explained, over thirty years after my own perfect babies arrived.

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 04:18h, 15 May Reply

      Thank you Annette! How I wish I could have been there for you (wouldn’t that have been extraordinary!!!). You didn’t fail either – you did your absolute best with the information you had at the time xxx So much love

  • Jojo Hogan
    Posted at 23:34h, 15 May Reply

    Fantastic article, thank you so much for your wisdom x

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 01:25h, 16 May Reply

      Thank you lovely Jojo! I am so happy you appreciated this piece x

  • Tiarna
    Posted at 19:38h, 18 May Reply

    Reading this reminded me about breastfeeding my first. I would cry from the pain and felt like a failure not being able to get him attached. I was never pressured to use formula and was happy about that. With my first I had trouble latching my boy but always asked for help and got it. It took a while due to the pain but we got there and I breastfeed him until he was 18months. Had no trouble with my daughter and now my third is a breeze. There was 6 of us in our antinatal class and I was the only one who was willing to breast feed. One girl even said she didn’t want to breast feed because get bibs were already bit enough as they were and she didn’t want them to get any bigger. Which I thought was quite selfish. She had C cups whole I was sitting there with DD and almost in an E which I was woke breastfeeding.

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 12:03h, 20 May Reply

      Thank you so much for you comments Tiarna. I am so glad you weren’t pressure to give formula. Well done for persisting through those challenging days too!! x

  • Lydia Cobham
    Posted at 03:27h, 22 May Reply

    When baby looses more than 10% of his birth weight despite feeding minimum every 2 hours day and night and then cluster feeding for 8 hours each day from 4pm until midnight and going to lactation consultants for 6 weeks every 2 days, i think its unrealistic to not have another option like formula. My son had a posterior tongue tie and despite an attempted release, it did not improve the razorblade, toe curling feeling every time he latched, or tried to. After pumping for 4 months, I’m happy to say formula has been a life saver for my little bloke, without it he would have faded away, through no ones fault except mother nature giving him a tongue tie. I ” trusted my body” for far too long before his weight loss dictated he needed formula to survive. Fed is freaken best.

    • Amberley Harris
      Posted at 10:11h, 16 June Reply

      Thank you for your comment Lydia. I completely agree that in situations like yours, mothers need other options. With my clients who experience similar scenarios to you I recommend donor milk, and if this isn’t an option, formula for sure. My blog is not saying it’s breastmilk or nothing, I am simply responding to a blog in the media which encouraged all mothers to buy formula before birth. I am so sorry for the hardships you had with your breastfeeding. Sending you love x

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