Part-Time Breastfeeding Is A Totally Valid Option

Photo by Celeste Burke.

If you intended to breastfeed your child, but end up wanting or needing to give formula, you may think you’ve switched teams: You’re now a formula feeder. But it isn’t an all-or-nothing choice, and part-time breastfeeding has important benefits.

One of those, according to a study late last year, is a likely reduction in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk. Babies who were breastfed for two months or more — even if they also got formula — were less likely to die of SIDS than babies that only got formula.

The study was observational, and we can’t be sure that the researchers ruled out all confounding factors. But the results suggest that breastfeeding may be protective.

So, what does partial breastfeeding look like? For example, you can pack formula in your kid’s day care bag, but feed them straight from the tap when they’re at home. Or even if they’re getting formula most of the time, there’s still nothing wrong with some nursing at bedtime. (If you only breastfeed rarely, your body may stop making milk, so keep that in mind as you’re deciding what to do.)

Obviously, if you’re changing up what your kid eats because of advice you got from a doctor or other health professional you can discuss your options with them. But I’ve known so many people who think they “have to” wean entirely when there isn’t any real reason to do so. If you’d rather keep breastfeeding some of the time, that’s usually a valid option.


Comments

    I breastfed both my kids with supplemented formula feeds and found it to be a really great 'everyone's happy' approach. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed but with my first child my breastmilk supply was problematic. After struggling through numerous lactation consultant visits, breastfeeding clinics and lectures from well-meaning friends and family, I gave in and started giving my baby a bottle of formula at night as a supplement. It was honestly like magic – his struggle with weight gain ceased to be a problem, my stress levels dropped and we both started getting more sleep.

    When I had similar issues with my second child, I knew exactly what I needed to do. No regrets.

    I think this needs to be an approach supported by more medical professionals as the 'all or nothing' approach to breastfeeding pushed by a lot of midwives and breastfeeding consultants is unfortunately not realistic for all mothers. It literally is the best of both worlds, allowing mothers to breastfeed their children and have a backup for circumstances when breastfeeding is inconvenient or not possible. A fed child is a happy, healthy child.

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