Ways OTHER than formula to breastfeed longer

You know I don’t post ranty posts too often. It’s just not my style. But when something gets under my skin and I think the message is important, well…

Tonight I received a press release (surprise surprise) with the following subject line: “Early Formula Use Helps Some Mothers Breastfeed Longer” I’m not going to use any links because frankly, I don’t want to spread what I feel is misinformation or give anyone any page views.


Ok, so before I offend anyone, let me preface this by saying I am NOT anti-formula. Not at all. I am very PRO-FEEDING your baby.

The whole press release, which I am sure many of my fellow blogging friends received just irked me.

And while I’m totally yanking this paragraph out of the middle of it, and it may be construed as taking it out of context, it just screams bullshit to me.

“Women do not immediately produce high volumes of milk after childbirth. Instead, at first mothers secrete small amounts of colostrum, which contains high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies for the baby. During this period, babies often lose weight and new mothers may be concerned that their babies appear fussy or hungry. “Many mothers develop concerns about their milk supply, which is the most common reason they stop breastfeeding in the first three months,” said Flaherman.

“But this study suggests that giving those babies a little early formula may ease those concerns and enable them to feel confident continuing to breastfeed,” she said.”

Ok, so first of all, it’s nothing new that a woman’s milk doesn’t fully come in for a first few days. The small amounts of colostrum should fill their small tummies up just fine. In fact, MOST lactation consultants will highly discourage the use of formula in these early days.

The problem with this press release is it prays on uneducated and exhausted moms who don’t understand that its NORMAL for a baby to lose weight during those first few days after birth and that it is NORMAL for breastmilk not to come in right away.

Get as much skin to skin contact with your baby as possible. It will help your supply and it’s wonderful for bonding too!

breastfeed longer

So what do you to do to breastfeed longer?

  • If you’re concerned about your baby’s weight, talk to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
  • Drink lots of water. LOTS of water.
  • Make sure you’ve increased your calorie intake by at least 400 calories per day.
  • Make sure you’re eating foods that help increase the production of breastmilk (Almonds, Apricots, Asparagus, Dark Beer (especially Guinness), Beet greens, Carrots, Coconut, Chickpeas (hummus!!), Chicken (bone-in), Cumin, Fennel, Ginger, Green Beans, Lettuce, Oatmeal (steel cut or slow cook, not instant), Parsley, Peas, Pumpkin (and seeds) just to name a few things)
  • Talk to someone about taking a supplement like Fenugreek or drinking Mother’s Milk Tea
  • Talk to a lactation consultant about pumping between feeds to boost your supply (the added benefit of this is you may also get a stash of milk that you can keep in your freezer for your baby)

And remember, breastfeeding is based on the supply and demand principle: the more you breastfeed your baby, the more milk you produce, so supplementing with formula? In my opinion it’s NOT going to encourage you to breastfeed longer.

If you’re struggling with breastfeeding the first few hours or days you’re in the hospital, please do not let “studies” like the one in the press release I received or the formula companies bully you. It’s PERFECTLY normal that you aren’t producing milk.

Do I believe there is a place for formula? Sure I do. Do I condemn mothers who chose to formula feed over breastfeed? Not at all. But I think that companies that PREY on mothers when they are vulnerable and have just given birth should be ashamed of themselves. Especially when they ask bloggers to share their message!

Heck no.


Edited to add: The “study” SHOULD say MOST woman don’t produce high volumes of milk after childbirth. When Quincy was born via crash c-section due to my pre-eclampsia, I pumped  EIGHT OUNCES within 12 hours of her birth. So……

About Kerri Jablonski

Kerri Jablonski AKA The Maven lives in Seattle,WA with her 3 kids (2008, 2010, 2013), husband, cats and backyard chickens. Two of her children have special needs. Kerri enjoys cooking, travel, movies and spending time with her family.


  1. Lynn, CLC says:

    I certainly applaud the gist of your post, and completely concur with you rant…however, drinking “lots of water,” eating many extra calories and the use of herbs hasn’t been proven to increase supply. The skin-to-skin, though is *EXCELLENT* advice. Babies in the first days need to nurse at least 10 times–frequent stimulation is crucial. These mamas need support and education–not formula (generally).

    • I’m writing from my own experience of course. I know many women forget to eat and hydrate themselves which does of course affect supply. 🙂

  2. Actually drinking too much water can lower your supply. If moms are concerned that the baby isn’t getting enough just by nursing they can always hand express colostrum into a spoon and feed that to the baby as a supplement (with the spoon, not with a bottle). If the medical people can actually document that your baby is getting food that way they’ll be less anxious about how much they’re getting at the breast. I love Jack Newman’s response to this particular study, because he really deals with that weight loss bugaboo. Mothers frequently don’t realize how tiny a newborn’s stomach is and how little food they need at a time. Offering ounces of formula is not only not necessary, but has its own set of hazards including messing up the babies gut for weeks and interfering with the job of thee immune factors in breast milk. No one is advocating starving babies, but supplementing babies who aren’t yet nursing well with more of what their own mothers are producing (whether that’s colostrum, transitional milk, or mature milk) is the answer. Nurses could spend their time more profitably teaching the mother how to hand express rather than going to the cupboard for formula and bottles.

  3. I saw that on the news last night! I couldn’t believe was I was hearing. And then they tried to follow it up with goof news that Orlando is opening it’s first Milk Bank. What a mixed message!

  4. I love this post. I don”t agree with women who don’t know any better being the target of formula companies.

    Most first time mothers do not realize how tiny a newborns stomach is and that the tiny amount of colostrum produced in the first few days is the perfect amount for baby.

  5. Kearsten says:

    Yes, too much water is not helpful…drink to thirst! Nursing makes you extra thirsty, generally, so always keep a bottle/glass of water handy!

    As far as what this ‘study’ suggests….well, yes, we only produce small amounts of colostrum at a time….but considering a newborn hours old baby’s tummy holds a mere teaspoon…well, they only need drops at a time in the first few days to get what is required! The study obviously fails to bring up that very important fact and the fact that most bottle feeds force the better part of am OUNCE into that baby’s belly, an amount not required by an exclusively breastfed infant until close to 2 weeks of age! Shame on studies and articles like the one mentioned. No, I do not agree that formula can help a mother breastfeed longer in most cases.

  6. I was so glad that I tried to educate myself as much as possible before I had my kids to avoid believing in things like this. I am totally pro-feeding too but if a woman really wants to breastfeed she should know the facts and feel comfortable with her decision to breastfeed. I was so blessed to have an easy breastfeeding experience from the start but with my first I had to supplement just for a few days due to jaundice.

  7. My children were born at a time when breastfeeding was not popular… The nurses at the hospital where I gave birth to my first son tried to insist I supplement my baby with formula while I was in the hospital. I told them no. This was before rooming in and babies were in the nursery except for feeding.

    My children are 35 and 31. I breast fed both of them. They never had formula nor baby food. They went straight from the breast to a cup and table food. My pediatrician at the time advised that the longer I breast fed my babies the less likely they would be to develop food allergies, ear problems, colds and other babyhood issues.. So he had me exclusively breast feed for the first year. He even told me he was proud of me as I was such a young mom and I had no issues… I was just a kid myself…

    I should note here that I had my first child at the age of 18 and my second at 22. What did I know at such a young age? Not a lot. However, I figured out the whole supply and demand thing with breast feeding. The more they suckle, the more milk I generated… I drank lots of water and paid attention to the signs my baby was giving me. I was lucky because in this one instance during my life, ignorance truly was bliss. I listend to my pediatrician and he obviously knew what he was talking about. One of my sons is now a police officer the other a cattle buyer for one of our nations top supplier of beef.

    So I reach out to all you mom’s that are doing the best you can with your babies… Just remember… Supply and demand… This coming from a 53 year old mom and grandma that’s been around the block a couple of times…

  8. Cassandra says:

    when (big) baby #2 was caught in a couldn’t sleep and therefore couldn’t eat enough to sleep long enough to have enough energy to eat long enough etc etc — i pumped and gave him breastmilk in a bottle. he slept for a long time, pooped and the next feed was to satisfaction and we were fine.

    interesting sidenote – because i pumped early with him i actually ended up enormously oversupplied (like an entire standup freezer oversupplied) – it wasn’t until baby 3 when i was producing less that i realized that by completely emptying my breasts all the time i upped the production. so, if you can stand it – if the baby doesn’t completely empty the breast after each feed then pump.

    the one thing i disagreed with about your story is the beer. while the hops can help – alcohol itself has been shown to lower milk production and additionally can give the milk a “funny” taste to the baby who may suckle less. so the occasional beer might help – especially in terms of that initial AIGH stress – but it may not work as a “production booster.”

    your article is geared toward the early days but in terms of prolonging breastfeeding – my oldest had drinkable yogurt in his bottle once or twice a day starting at about 7 or 8 months. i didn’t do it to extend breastfeeding but in retrospect it may have helped us make it to 1.5 years.

    thanks for a great post and discussion in the comments 🙂

    • Ahh I can’t do the beer either (not my thing), but I know it’s worked for so many, so I included it.

      I hear you about the chest freezer. With Quincy in the NICU for 5 weeks, I was nursing and pumping. It was oversupply central. Saddest thing was so much of it went to waste because I was on meds for high blood pressure and couldn’t donate. Very sad.

      • Not sure if they still recommend this but women took brewers yeast instead of the actual beer as a way to increase milk production. 35 years ago, LOL!

        My daughter-in-law is an RN and worked in the NICU at the time she delivered my first grandson. She pumped and supplied the baby with more than enough milk. Her freezer was full of breast milk and she never ran out. Now she is happily breastfeeding my grand daughter that turned one in January. She’s an amazing mom.

      • I’ve made cookies with brewer’s yeast to help boost my supply. Mmm!

  9. All great advice. I like that you are pro breastfeeding but you don’t condemn a mother who chooses to not breastfeed or can’t, for some reason or another. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. I like how you turned this around and shared such an informative post.

  11. It is so sad that a lot of women do not research before having kids, to find out the facts, and can be so easily swayed and manipulated. It is terrible that the formula indistry keeps trying to get less and less women to breastfeed their babies {and I am totally NOT anti-formula either, btw.. I formula-fed all 3 of mine for a while..}. Thanks, Kerri, for writing with a good quality post that is educational and based in FACT! 🙂

  12. I have a friend who just had a baby and was too easily convinced she wasn’t providing enough for her baby. It’s rather sad how the world tries to convince us women that what we were naturally meant to do won’t be sufficient. It really is angering! Thanks so much for writing this!

  13. With our first child, the nurse talked us into giving him a bottle within the first 24 hours of his life even though she knew I wanted to breastfeed. Our nursing relationship never worked out and 3 months later, my milk was gone. With our second child, I didn’t allow anyone to talk me into anything. She’s 2 now and just starting to wean!

  14. It’s absolutely disgusting to me that they would send out a press release like this. I’ve heard of some mothers who have used formula in the beginning while they built up a supply but the fact remains that most mothers who do this do not continue to breastfeed and I think they need to be a lot more forthcoming about that!

  15. I had a csection and they fed her a bottle bc I was so out of it after she was born. However that was the only time and made it very clear never again. My little is now 6 months and I have had the best breastfeeding experience. I was nervous that the formula she had would throw her off, but thank God it did not. Also my pediatrician was opposed to me not supplementing at her 3 day check up. Once I brought her back and her weight doubled in 2 months she shut up. It infuriated me.

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