If you are giving your baby top-ups (and by top ups I mean of breastmilk or formula by bottle) and you are happy doing this, and your supply isn’t affected, then good for you and keep doing what’s working for you and your baby.
If however, you have fallen into a cycle of top-ups either because there was an initial concern for baby in the hospital or because you were advised to by a well-meaning relative or health care practitioner, then rest assured that for the most part, top-ups are unnecessary and reversible.
The main reason why top-ups are given is because parents are not aware of ‘normal infant breastfeeding behaviour’.
A healthy full term newborn will feed on demand every 1 and a half to 3 hours depending on a variety of factors from your milk storage capacity, to the time of day, to how efficiently the baby latches and drinks. There are cluster feeding periods in every 24 hour period also, whereby the baby appears to feed endlessly. This can make parents doubt their supply and hence their ability to exclusively feed their baby. But in fact is an important part of building your supply specifically to your baby’s needs.
Knowing what’s normal, and having a peer support network of breastfeeding mothers really helps with keeping self-doubt at bay.
If you are giving say a 2 oz top-up after every feed, baby is likely more satisfied and showing less desire to feed often. This will impact on your supply, and will lead to more top-ups.
The best thing to do here is to see a Lactation Consultant, who will assess the feeding and transfer of milk between mum and baby. Your Lactation Consultant can also advise you on alternative methods of topping up your baby that don’t involve a bottle but maintain breast-focus.
If you want to do this without external help, try dropping the volume of your top-ups gradually. If you drop your top-ups too quickly, you put yourself at risk of becoming overwhelmed with a hungry baby and becoming exhausted and disillusioned with your ultimate goal (which is exclusive feeding).
Engage with your PHN for weekly weights while you drop your top-ups, so that you can be reassured that your baby is still thriving and healthy.