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Struggling to wean off formula? Read this inspirational blog on how a mother slowly weaned off formula.

Hi Rubeka, please share your breastfeeding journey with us.
I was a new mom who had really less/no knowledge about breastfeeding, I was misguided at the hospital about breastfeeding. I was told to stick to the clock and time, feed my kiddo and give formula even if the baby was satisfied and sleeping. No one told me about golden hour feeding, colostrum, delayed cord clamping or anything related to childbirth or breastfeeding. I had no idea that there are breastfeeding support groups or parenting or weaning or child birthing groups available online. I thought that like a normal human being, a newborn will have breastmilk like breakfast, lunch and dinner and maybe 1-2 snacks.

But reality hit me real hard when my son was born. I had no idea that a newborn will ask for so many feeds in 24 hrs, that I will be sleep deprived after C section, I had other medical conditions, my stitches were tearing off from one side, I had terrible case of fissure postpartum, so bad that I had to undergo a surgery on 50th day postpartum. On the top of which, my newborn was cluster feeding, we were completely under formula trap and I was not able to sit at all. My body was continuously in pain and my mind was always confused if I am doing good? If I am a good mother? Why is my baby crying all the time? Why was my baby not sleeping longer? And many other questions, I was totally under postpartum blues along with the physical pain.

But after my surgery, when my physical pain got reduced, my mental health was getting better as now I was able to sit and nurse, lie down and nurse and nurse in many more positions. But I was still under the impression of timed feeding, formula trap, and other myths related to the newborn stage. I tried everything that I was told at that stage, be it parenting related, breastfeeding related, sleep related and many more. But I always kept an open mind and kept experimenting and I am happy to complete 1000 days of breastfeeding and now completed three years of breastfeeding and still going strong.

Wow congrats on achieving a great milestone! You surely have faced many challenges. Do you want to share a few with new mothers?

At the new postpartum stage I was sleep deprived, I was always on my phone, surfing the internet, I tried educating myself with respect to breastfeeding, postpartum blues, hormonal issues, and many more. I always kept an open mind to experiment with my baby. I tried to go cold turkey with formula but it was a bad decision. My son was receiving 90ml formula 4-5 times a day, which was eliminated at once and then he was dehydrated. I then reintroduced the formula and then slowly weaned off.

I wish I had someone to add me in support groups on facebook, I had no idea that a profession called lactation professional existed, but I somehow sailed my boat. I took one day at a time.

Yes many of us were ignorant about all the help available around, including me. But how did you overcome those challenges alone?
Best part about my formula trap journey was I never introduced bottles. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise.
Keep an open mind, ask for help when in need, never make a decision on a bad day and take one day at a time.

What is the message/ advice which you want to send across to mothers who may be in a similar situation such as yours?
A pediatrician will help you when your baby is sick
A gynaecologist will help you with issues related to mother’s health
But only a Lactation professional will help you with breastfeeding related issues.
Seek professional help when necessary, do some research while you are pregnant. Join groups like Breastfeeding support for Indian Mothers, add your friends while they are pregnant. Support each other, take informed decisions based on your research.

Very well said. What kept you going during the difficult times?
My son’s smile and good health kept me going. I knew the benefits of breastmilk, but saw it when me, my husband and my son, we all had covid. Although me and my husband had fever, cough, diarrhoea and many other covid symptoms, my son was still breastfeeding and he was the only one who was covid positive and had no issues or no symptoms. That is when I saw how amazing breast milk is, how good it is for my son and that is what kept me going for this long.

Indeed. Hope everyone realises the power of breast milk too.
Here are few questions specific to Weaning off formula that may help mothers who are already in a situation such as yours:

1. What made you decide to wean off formula?
I was too tired to wash and sterilize the spoon and bowl, heat water and replace the leftover formula again and again. I found lifting my top or opening the zip of my feeding gown way easier to feed my baby. I was already sleep deprived and doing other chores along with breastfeeding, making formula etc, made me hate formula. That is when I decided to wean off formula.

2. What was the strategy you followed? This might help other mothers struggling with the same issue.
I started with cold turkey to the formula, I just decided not to give it at all, but then I saw my son’s skin was flaky, lips all dried up and less wet diapers, I knew something was wrong, so I reintroduced the formula and reduced it eventually. I wish I was a part of BSIM at that stage, I found out about it 6 months postpartum. Nevertheless My method of gradually weaning off formulas worked out and when I joined BSIM, I got the validation on my method of gradually weaning it off.

3. When struggling with the emotional aspect of weaning off formula, what can a mother do?
Just know that you are doing what you feel is the best for the baby, Exclusively breastfeeding or not, no mother will even do anything that is harmful for the baby knowingly, I was feeling happy on my formula weaning journey. It is totally normal to doubt your decision, but unless you are making an informed decision, and taking help from the right person/group you will do just fine. Early postpartum days could be overwhelming and full of self doubts, but it all gets better with time and practice. It takes time for you and your baby to learn how to wean off formula or how to latch, or how to do certain things, but one thing that kept me motivated to wean off formula was, Breastfeeding issues can be solved by correcting it and not by replacing it. Take your sweet time to do your research, help yourself by asking for help, and then begin your formula weaning journey. And now after three yrs of breastfeeding I can assure you that it’s all worth it.

4. What tips can you give to family members of mothers who are struggling with the same issue?
Take 1 day at a time.
Seek help
Never make a decision on a bad day.
Find a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician and OB-GYN
Involve your partner in your plan and journey.
And do what you feel is right and not what others tell you to do.
Don’t let anyone pressurize you for something you do not want to do, Your baby your rules.

Thanks a lot for sharing your lovely journey with us. Hopefully your experiences will be an inspiration for all mothers who are in similar situations too.

For mothers who wish to learn more on how to wean off formula, please go through this link: https://www.bsim.org.in/breastfeeding-information-weaning-off-formula/
If you feel you would need one-on-one support to wean off formula, consider booking a consult with a member of our team at this link: https://www.bsim.org.in/book-an-online-lactation-consult-consultant/

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