What to do when you need a breastfeeding break

For many mothers, breastfeeding is far from easy. It can be painful, exhausting, uncomfortable, and emotional. If you’re feeling like you just really need a break from it, that’s completely okay and normal.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting some time for yourself.

You’re not alone in feeling ‘touched out’.

It’s alright if your partner or another caregiver wants to play a role in feeding your baby.

It’s natural to feel frustrated that everything falls on you 24/7.

You’re justified for wanting someone else to take over some night feeds so you can catch up on sleep.

It’s all incredibly overwhelming, particularly in the early months, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop breastfeeding altogether if that’s not what you want. It also doesn’t mean that you have to start offering formula unless you want to.

You CAN have a break from breastfeeding without having to worry about your supply (or feeling any guilt) if you follow these steps:

Step 1: Wait until your milk is established

Lactation specialists advise new mums to wait until about the 4-6 week mark before offering a bottle (or a bottle alternative, such as a cup). This way you and bub are settling into a good rhythm, and the best way to establish your milk supply is through frequent breastfeeds.

Step 2: Don’t leave it too long to get started

Your baby’s sucking reflex will be triggered when offered a bottle up until about 8-12 weeks, but once that reflex disappears, it gets a bit trickier for them to accept a bottle. So, ideally you’ll introduce one between 6-8 weeks for a smoother transition.

Step 3: Choose a breast pump if you don’t have one

Choose an electric breast pump that’s soft, comfortable, and portable if you want to pump while you’re out and about. Ask your maternal and child health nurse or lactation consultant to recommend one that best suits your needs.

Step 4: Select bottles specifically designed for breastfed babies

To make it easier to change from breast to bottle, use a bottle that has a teat that’s as close to a nipple as possible. Usually these teats would have several tiny openings modeled on the milk ducts, allowing for a more natural flow and familiar feeling. Check out our list of top 10 bottles for 2021.

Step 5: Start pumping if you haven’t yet

You may have already been advised to express breast milk to boost your supply in the early weeks, but if you haven’t used a breast pump yet, you will need to start expressing, usually at the same time as you would normally breastfeed. Learn how to safely store your liquid gold here.

Step 6: Choose the right baby formula if that’s your preference

If you’re unable to pump, or choose not to, rest assured that you can still safely meet your baby’s nutritional needs. We’ve compiled a list of some of the more commonly asked questions about choosing the right formula and how to get started here.

Step 7: Ask someone else to offer the bottle

Your baby is more likely to accept a bottle from someone else, and it’s even better if you’re not present. So, go for a walk around the block, or your partner could take your baby for a walk so you can rest. They might enjoy sitting in a park or cafe where they could offer a bottle.

Step 8: Ask your partner/caregiver to follow these bottle-feeding tips

Not all babies take to a bottle straight away, so it’s important to go slow without pressuring bub. Send your partner or caregiver this list of helpful tips to encourage your breastfed baby to take a bottle, which includes following bub’s hunger cues, offering the bottle for fun (rather than a feed), paced feeding, and finding the right place, time, and position. Plus some helpful ideas if your baby still refuses a bottle.

Step 9: Weigh up your options and do what works for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to feeding your baby. It might even vary from day to day or month to month. You might choose to breastfeed but have your partner do a bedtime or midnight bottle feed. You might choose to exclusively express if that’s a better fit for you. You might do mixed feeding every day or only part-time (when you return to work, for example). You might do it all: breastfeed, express, and offer formula. The choice is yours.

Step 10: Enjoy your breastfeeding break

As long as you feel supported and informed about your choices to feed your baby, just know that you’re doing an incredible job. Give yourself permission to enjoy this time – guilt-free.  Breastfeeding and pumping is hard work. Parenting is hard work! Do what works for you, your baby, and the rest of your family, but don’t feel you have to justify your parenting choices to anyone.


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