If your baby is exclusively formula-fed
- If you are unable to find your usual formula milk, you can use any brand of first stage infant formula milk. They are all required by law to meet the same nutritional standards.
- “Stage 2” follow-on formula milk must not be used for babies under 6 months.
- If you are using “stage 2” follow-on formula milk for a baby older than 6 months, you can use any stage 1 formula milk instead.
- You may be able to order formula milk from your local pharmacy, or directly from a formula milk manufacturer.
- If you have stopped breastfeeding, especially in the last few days or weeks, it may be possible to restart your milk supply. The more milk you were making, and the more recently you were making it, the more likely it is that you could get a larger amount of milk. For more info see https://www.laleche.org.uk/relactation-induced-lactation/
If your baby is partially breastfed
- Continue to breastfeed. Breastfeeding supports your baby’s immune system and protects them from many common illnesses. Even if your baby is only breastfeeding a bit, and is mostly fed with formula milk, they will still get plenty of immune support from breastfeeding.
- It may be possible to increase the amount of your milk that your baby gets, by putting your baby to the breast and/or expressing your milk more often. You can read more about increasing milk production here: https://www.laleche.org.uk/my-baby-needs-more-milk/
- It is never safe suddenly to stop giving your baby formula milk, or to give less formula milk, if they have been getting a significant amount. Reducing formula milk should always be done gradually and carefully, making sure that your baby continues to produce wet and dirty nappies, to grow normally, and seems satisfied after feeding. Contact your healthcare provider or a La Leche League Leader for help and support with this.
If your baby is exclusively breastfed
- Continue to breastfeed exclusively, while making sure that your baby continues to produce wet and dirty nappies, to grow normally, and seems satisfied after feeding. See below if you have any concerns about your milk supply.
- If you had been thinking about replacing some breastfeeding with formula milk (or other milks, for a baby aged over 12 months) you may wish to postpone this decision until the pandemic situation is more stable. Maximising breastfeeding will maximise protection for your child. It’s important to be aware that once your milk production has reduced, it may be more difficult to increase it again later.
- If your baby is around 6 months old and showing signs of interest in complementary foods, you can start offering these as you usually would, alongside breastfeeding as much as your baby wants.
Breastfeeding – more than milk
- Breastfeeding is calming and comforting for both you and your baby, and helps you feel close and connected. Whether or not you are breastfeeding your baby exclusively, if you and your baby enjoy it you can put your baby to the breast more often.
- Older breastfed babies, toddlers and children might ask to breastfeed more often than usual. This may be because they are feeling unsettled by changes in their normal daily rhythm, and because they are aware that adults are feeling anxious. “Going with the flow” and accepting more frequent feeding for a while can reassure them and calm you as well. If you are finding the frequent feeding irritating, you can meet your child’s need for reassurance and comfort in other ways, such as carrying them in a sling, cuddling, singing and playing.
If you are worried about your milk supply
It’s normal for mothers who are expressing milk, for example because their baby was born early, to find that they pump less when they’re feeling anxious. This doesn’t mean that they suddenly aren’t making milk.
If your baby has been growing fine on your milk up to now, you will be able to carry on making plenty of milk for your baby. If your baby has been partly breastfed/fed on your milk, you will be able to carry on making as much milk as you have been making. You do not need to increase the amount of formula milk your baby has been getting, or start giving formula milk, as long as your baby is OK (producing wet and dirty nappies as usual and seems well in themselves).
If you find that you can express less than usual, this won’t be because your milk production has stopped, but because stress can temporarily slow down your milk ejection reflex (MER, sometimes called “letdown”). This can be affected by your mood, especially when pumping rather than directly breastfeeding. Milk production is very robust and will continue even if the mother is unusually stressed, doesn’t eat or drink as much as usual or becomes ill. Your body will always prioritise your baby!
You can encourage your MER (letdown of milk) by:
* Setting the scene before you feed/express. Low lighting, comfortable seating, privacy and warmth can all be helpful. Think “romantic date”!
* The magic of touch. A hug, cuddle or massage before or during pumping can help release oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that makes your milk eject. If no one is available, try wrapping a scarf or shawl round your shoulders and chest – this area is covered with oxytocin receptors, which is why a hug feels so comforting!
* Focusing on your baby. The sight, sound, feel and smell of your baby all help your hormones to flow. Could someone hold your baby near your face where you can smell and feel their hair as you pump?
* Deep relaxation. This free downloadable track has been shown to help mothers of premature babies pump more: https://www.dropbox.com/s/weyg6uw68u7plnm/Breastfeeding%20for%20Premie%20Infants.m4a?dl=0&fbclid=IwAR1UiQhDaK3u5yyatPaN_92sgI4nJTHsz_mB7IRMDe1YE4HDbUonbAT78GM You could also experiment with your own favourite relaxation or slow music tracks.
* Visualisation. Some mothers find it helpful to cover the bottle with a sock so they can’t see how quickly it’s filling up. Instead of focusing on the slow drip of milk into the bottle, think about the bottle filling quickly, your baby gulping milk at the breast, or imagine a waterfall, fountain or geyser!
* Laugh! Laughter promotes oxytocin release. Put on a funny movie or find your favourite comedian online.
Information from UNICEF about infant feeding during the coronavirus pandemic: https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/03/Unicef-UK-Baby-Friendly-Initiative-statement-on-infant-feeding-during-the-Covid-19-outbreak-2.pdf
LLL Oxfordshire 26.03.20