Why do I need to transition my toddler off formula and a bottle at 12-18 months?

It is recommended that babies transition off bottles and formula at 1 year old. Why, then is it recommended to still continue breastfeeding and breast milk until 2+ years? There are several things at play: oral development and nutrition.

Breast and bottle feeding work completely different. As a baby breastfeeds, the human breast/nipple changes shape in baby’s mouth. Breastfeeding requires baby to coordinate their orofacial muscles to form a vacuum to extract milk from the breast. The back of the tongue firmly rests on the palate, which allows the tongue to shape the upper jaw, and naturally expand the palate (widening the upper jaw so the tongue fits in it perfectly). Once milk is released, the tip of the tongue pushes the breast against the front of the palate, stimulating the forward development of the front part of the upper jaw and midface. As the lower jaw moves back and forth, it stimulates forward growth of the lower jaw too. Forward growth of the jaws and face help in forming the airway. The firm nipple of a bottle does not change shape in baby’s mouth, and some bottles work on compression only where the vacuum does not need to be as strong. Cup feeding uses muscles more similarly to breastfeeding than a bottle. When we transition a baby to an open cup, we are promoting a more mature swallow and oral motor pattern. You can transition a baby to an open cup at 6 months, but should definitely try to transition off the bottle between 12-18 months for optimal facial and swallowing development.

Nutritionally human milk is constantly changing based on the age of your little one. It’s hormones, stem cells, and antibodies are tailored to meet the needs of a growing toddler. Human milk is phenomenal for development and immunity. Infant formulas are designed to meet the nutritional needs of a child on an exclusive milk diet prior to eating table food. They are designed to grow a baby from 0-12 months based on what we know those babies need nutritionally. Once a toddler moves to eating table foods, they can get all of their nutrients and calories from a balanced diet.

Sleep Like A Baby

BREASTFEEDING FACT: No one sleeps all night
The reality is, no one, including adults, sleeps all night all the time. Older infants and toddlers are no exception. They often wake multiple times a night, but as they mature, they learn to put themselves back to sleep. We all go through multiple sleep cycles in a night, and toddlers actually go through more of these sleep cycles than we do. Which means they have more opportunity to get woken up from a light sleep.

Generally, there are 2 sleep stages in newborn babies and 4 sleep stages in babies over 3 months old. Newborn sleep stages are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Newborns spend close to equal amounts of time in REM and NREM while they sleep.

REM is an active sleep state and NREM is a quiet sleep state. During REM, a baby can be seen making small movements. The baby’s eyes move around (while closed), their arms, legs and fingers might twitch or jerk, their breathing might speed up, and they may move their mouths. During NREM, the baby is still and doesn’t move. Around 3 months, babies begin experiencing the same sleep stages as adults.

Adults go through 4 sleep stages. These sleep stages include three stages of NREM sleep (which happen first at night) and one of REM (which happens last). The first two are lighter stages of sleep, during which a person can be easily awakened. The third stage of sleep is the deepest stage, and it is very difficult to wake someone in this stage. The fourth is REM, where dreams happen. Although babies begin experiencing 4 stages of sleep around 3 months, it is not until closer to 5-years-old that children’s sleep actually begins to mirror that of adults. As babies, they experience a short REM stage almost immediately after falling asleep instead of last in the cycle. In contrast, adults do not experience REM until they have been asleep for around 90 minutes. As a baby’s sleep schedule changes, so do their sleep cycles. Baby REM sleep is one part of the sleep cycle that changes over time. However, there is no simple chart outlining sleep cycle length or REM by age. Know that it is normal for your baby and toddler to wake frequently at night, and as they age, they will get better and better at putting themselves back to sleep.

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Antidepressants and breastfeeding

Put your oxygen mask on first. When there is an emergency on a plane, we are instructed to put our mask on first before helping others. This is also critical when caring for our children. Stress, depression, and anxiety can play major roles in how we care for our babies and for ourselves. Antidepressants are OK to take while breastfeeding. When maternal mental illness is not addressed, research shows this not only has a negative impact on the mother’s overall health, but can impact the baby as well.

The risks of not addressing maternal mental health include:
✏️Poor infant growth, language and cognitive development
✏️Poor gross and fine motor development
✏️Less efficient breastfeeding or weaning from breastfeeding earlier than desired
✏️Poor infant sleep and increased maternal stress.

When considering antidepressant use during lactation, while most medications are considered safe for mom and baby, there is no “zero risk” option. However, the benefits of using a medication to help decrease depression and anxiety usually outweigh the risks acostares with taking a medication. If a mother has been on a certain med prior to breastfeeding and it worked well for her, it would be reasonable to resume that medication while breastfeeding. Sertraline (Zoloft) is a first-line drug for breastfeeding, due to documented low levels of exposure in breastfeeding babies and the very low number of adverse events described in case reports. Prozac is generally considered safe to take while breastfeeding; however, research shows that the average amount of the drug in breastmilk is higher than with other SSRIs.

When taking any medication, you want to monitor for side effects both in you and the baby. Most common side effects when taking antidepressants are:
🥛 Changes in milk supply
🛌 Sedation/sleepiness in baby
Poor feeding or weight gain in baby

Antidepressants can work well to help you feel balanced again. Work closely with an IBCLC while starting antidepressants to help continue and feel supported in your breastfeeding journey

Vasospasm: pins and needles in the nipple

Has your nipple looked waxy or dull white after feeding or pumping? That’s because the blood vessels have gone into spasm and are not letting blood through. Vasospasm occurs when there is exposure to cold, an abrupt temperature drop, vibration, or repetitive motion in the affected area. The arteries go into spasm and stop letting blood through. There is a disorder called Reynauds that make peoples experience this in their fingers and toes on a more routine basis. When it happens in the nipple it really HURTS. Some say it feels like fire or ice. Others describe it as a pinchy, slicing feeling, or pins and needles. The nipple often turns pale and become painful right after the baby unlatches. It often gets misdiagnosed as thrush but will not respond to medications. So if you’ve been on multiple rounds of medications for thrush and it’s not working, you may actually be having vasospasm.

It can simply be caused by a bad latch, but can have several other culprits. For people prone to vasospasm, the repetitive action of feeding or pumping in combination with the abrupt drop in temperature when baby unlatches or the pump stops is enough to trigger the spasm.

The two main ways to help: massage and heat.

🤲🏼Gently massaging, rubbing, or pinching the nipple helps. Immediately cover your nipples with your shirt/bra/nursing pad, then gently rub or massage them through the fabric.

🌞Heat is important because of science: evaporation is a cooling process. When liquid turns to gas, it uses heat energy from its surroundings to transition. When milk and saliva evaporate off your nipple, the skin and surface tissue cool rapidly, causing the vasospasm.

🌞To slow evaporation, place heat on your nipple as soon as baby unlatches. Use dry heat like a lavender pillow, microwaveable rice/barley/flax pack, hand warmer/Hot Hands (like you use in snowy climates for skiing), or a heating pad can help. Leave heat on for a few minutes until the pain subsides.
🌚Avoid anything wet on the nipple as this promotes evaporation.
🌝Wear wool nursing pads between feedings

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of good quality research about treating breastfeeding nipple vasospasm no. Much of what we know is taken from other vasospasm research, or applied from anecdotal evidence. You should always consult your primary health care provider before making any changes to your health, such as adding a supplement, taking medications, or making big lifestyle changes. At a basic level:
🌻Watch for a deep latch every time
🌻Have baby assessed for tongue tie
🌻Check your flange size. If you’re maxing our the suction on the pump, your flange is too big. When too much areola is drawn into the tunnel, the areola swells shut around the nipple and causes the spasm. Using too small a flange does the same: cuts off blood flow to the nipple tip.

Other tips to reducing vasospasm:
🌸Avoid nicotine and medications that cause vasoconstriction (such as pseudoephedrine, beta blockers).
🌸Limit or avoid caffeine
🌸Some research indicates hormonal birth control pills increase the risk of vasospasm.
🌸The main supplement that seems to help with vasospasm is vitamin B6. Dr Jack Newman suggests 100 mg of B6 twice day, as part of a B vitamin complex. If your B vitamin contains 50 mg of B6, you’d take two of them, twice a day. If it contains 25 mg of B6, you’d take four of them twice a day.
🌸Calcium plays an important role in blood vessel dilation. Magnesium helps in calcium regulation. Supplementing with cal/mag often helps with vasospasm.
🌸Being active helps prevent their vasospasm. An active lifestyle can keeps blood circulating through your body.
🌸The internet is full of conflicting opinions on if ibuprofen is a vasoconstrictor or vasodilator. Regardless, it sometimes turns up to treat/prevent vasospasm. If you have regular vasospasm, the risks of longterm ibuprofen use most likely outweigh the potential decrease in vasospasm. It may be OK for occasional vasospasm. Discuss regular ibuprofen use with a healthcare provider.
🌸For chronic, painful vasospasm that does not respond to breast-feeding help, some doctors may prescribe a short course of a blood medication called Nifedipine.

Nipple shield weaning

Did you use a nipple shield to help your baby latch? Want to transition baby off the shield? First, weaning from the shield is your choice. If you like it and it’s comfortable for you, don’t feel pressured to get rid of it before you and your baby are ready. There are risks associated with shield use, like the potential for decreased milk supply. But if that’s the only way your baby will latch right now, give yourselves time and grace to keep trying as baby gets older and more proficient at the breast. As always, if you’re really struggling to get off the shield, find a knowledgeable lactation consultant to help you with the process to make sure something else isn’t going on with baby’s latch.

💡You can always start with the shield on and take it off after your first let down once baby is not as hungry or use it on the first side and offer the second side without it

💡Start by trying without the shield once a day during daylight hours when baby is happy and not too hungry. Catching baby with early hunger cues is imperative. If they’re crying and really hungry, try a different time

💡Start in skin to skin. Taking a bath together can help. Try to be as relaxed as possible

💡Try to erect and evert your nipple. Use reverse pressure softening (RPS, see highlight reel), a pump or stimulate your nipples with your hands before attempting to latch

💡Help baby latch with laid back nursing, supporting the breast in a “C” or sandwich hold, or the flipple. Make sure baby’s chin and cheeks are physically touching the breast as much as possible. A baby that can’t feel the breast can’t latch to the breast.

💡Hand express to get your milk flowing so baby gets instant satisfaction and reduce the work

💡Relax and be patient. Babies can feel your energy. The more you can see it as fun practice, the less pressure you’ll put on yourself and your baby

💡Try a nipple shield weaning system like this one from Back to Mom (24mm) or Lacteck (small/20mm).

Slacker boob

Did you know? Around 70% of women produce more milk in the right breast. Which means 30% make more in the left. It is VERY common for one side to produce more than the other. Some times double on one side. We don’t know why. This is not a reason to neglect one side. You want to make sure you rotate which breast you offer first. Babies may prefer one side over the other for various reasons:

👶🏽They like to lay with their head in a certain direction or their body is uncomfortable in the opposite position

👶🏿They prefer the flow (one side may flow faster or slower than the other)

👶🏼They may prefer the flavor (YES!! Milk can taste different form each breast during the same feeding!!)

If you want to help balance out a slacker boob:

🔆Offer the slacker first more often. 

🔆End on the slacker can also help, especially if baby just wants to use you like a pacifier. 

🔆Pump the slacker side during or after feedings can also help stimulate more milk production

🔆Make sure you have the correct sized pump flange on the slacker side. Our nipples can often be different sizes and using the wrong sized flange can drop supply on that side

🔆Hand expression on that side at random times of the day even for a few minutes will jump start increased production. 

🔆If it’s positional from your baby (they only want to lay cross cradle to the right and not the left, experiment with other positions like football or side lying to help baby compensate for their body. If your baby prefers one side of the other from a positional perspective, consider taking your baby for some infant bodywork like chiropractic or craniosacral therapy.

What’s up with my baby biting, gumming, chomping, hitting, pulling and pinching the nipple/breast while breastfeeding?

Babies are masters at breastfeeding. They will exhibit all kinds of behaviors at the breast that will make you question if you have any milk and wonder what’s wrong with the baby. Most babies discover they have power and control over the breast and that different behaviors get different things. Biting, tugging, gumming, pulling, patting, chomping, shaking the nipple and breast are normal infant behaviors. Repeatedly latching on and off can also be normal when it doesn’t happen all the time. They happen during growth spurts, cluster feeding and teething. And may increase when baby discovers they can get a reaction from you for them. These behaviors increase or decrease the flow rate of milk and help stimulate supply and let down during growth spurts and teething.

What can you do? Stay calm. Most likely it’s normal and will change with time. Lots of skin to skin time between feedings can help keep baby calm and will naturally increase your supply during growth spurts. Using breast compressions while feeding can help increase flow and help trigger let downs. If baby is teething, give plenty of opportunity to chew and bite on appropriate toys and food items outside of nursing times. If baby is biting to slow flow, try a laid back position and make sure you’re not promoting an oversupply from over use of the Haakaa or pumping at sporadic times. Continue to watch for wet and dirty diapers and know that usually these behaviors are normal and don’t last.

If baby is having these behaviors all the time and isn’t making the amount of wet and dirty diapers you would expect, schedule a lactation consultation immediately.

Low Milk Supply

There are people that will struggle to or never make a full milk supply. From 1 month to 1 year, exclusively breastfed babies average 25oz of breast milk per day. True low supply means making less than this when the breasts are stimulated at least 8 times in 24 hours. Chronic low milk supply is linked to either a greater health concern or something out of your control which you cannot change or fix with cookies, teas or even medications and pumping. 

🗝Low milk supply that can be increased with time and support:

  • 💡Taking certain prescription medications with a side effect of dropping milk (Sudafed, Benadryl, antibiotics)
  • 💡Baby not feeding efficiently from lack of oral motor skill or tongue tie
  • 💡Taking certain prescription medications with a side effect of dropping milk (Sudafed, Benadryl, antibiotics)
  • 💡Not feeding or pumping enough, especially over night
  • 💡Scheduled feedings or over use of a pacifier
  • 💡Birth. Many medications designed to help you labor and deliver actually inhibit baby from latching and feeding effectively for hours to days after birth. Hemorrhage or birth trauma can also cause low supply in the beginning
  • 💡Supplementing, especially in the two weeks after birth

🗝Reasons for chronic low milk supply that may NOT increase even with maximal support:

  • 💡Breast or nipple surgery, augmentation, reduction, trauma
  • 💡Insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). Breasts never developed during puberty and look tubular or widely spaced. Signs of IGT include breasts did not grow in puberty, or increase in size during pregnancy. No engorgement in the week after birth
  • 💡Uncontrolled or undiagnosed thyroid disorder
  • 💡Uncontrolled diabetes
  • 💡Hormone or endocrine disorders, including severe PCOS
  • 💡Hormonal birth control placed/used too soon after delivery
  • 💡Nipple piercing that scars shut instead of staying open

There is a mistaken belief that prescription galactagogues, teas, or herbs can cure ANY chronic low milk supply. Before self-prescribing or taking Domperidone, Reglan, fenugreek, or any other lactation supplement, consider having your serum prolactin levels tested and a full evaluation by a skilled lactation consultant. Continue to follow @lalactation in Instagram or see my videos on YouTube for strategies of breastfeeding with chronic low milk supply.

Do I need to give my breastfeeding toddler cow’s milk or switch to cow’s milk when they turn one?

If you’re still breastfeeding into toddlerhood, no. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 years old. After 2, you can wean to water and table foods or to any kind of milk per your family’s choice. If you’ve decided to wean between 1-2 years, yes and no. Cow’s milk provides a convenient source of a lot of nutrients, including calcium, protein, potassium and vitamin D that are important for building bone and brain development. But if your toddler won’t drink it, has an allergy or intolerance, or your family follows a vegan lifestyle, a well-planned diet can provide these nutrients too. According to the USDA, children ages 2-3 need two servings of dairy per day (milk, yogurt, cheese, or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverage), children age 4-8 need two and a half, and kids 9+ need three. Can you use a milk alternative such as soy, almond or oat? Yes, but they’re not one-for-one swaps. For instance, almond and rice milk have only 1 gram of protein per serving, compared to 8 grams in cow’s.

When choosing a non-dairy milk, make sure it’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Homemade versions won’t have this fortification. Shake milk substitutes well before serving, the calcium settles on the bottom. Look for varieties labeled “unsweetened” as many milk alternatives contain lots of added sugar! If you’re choosing not to offer your toddler cow’s milk, make sure they’re getting a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and protein to get them the vitamins, minerals, fats and protein they need for growth. When in doubt, discuss nutrition with a pediatric dietician

Milk is a very convenient source of calcium, but not essential. It is recommended that a 1-3 year old child have 700mg (2-3 servings) of calcium per day. Eating a diet rich in beans, tofu, spinach, kale, broccoli, kiwi, figs, brown rice, oatmeal and certain fish such as salmon can give your child just as much calcium as drinking milk. No one ever “has” to drink milk. Human milk contains less calcium than cow’s milk, but the calcium in human milk has over twice the bioavailability of the calcium in cow’s milk. Increasing your calcium intake does not increase the calcium in your milk – your milk always has the right amount of calcium for your baby. Getting adequate calcium in your diet is recommended because if you’re not getting enough, your body will take calcium from your bones to provide to your baby, making you more prone to bone fractures. However as soon as you wean, your body regains bone mass and your bones will actually be stronger than before. 

Human milk averages 5.9-10.1 mg/oz calcium. 67% of this calcium is absorbed by the body. 

Whole milk contains 36.4 mg/oz calcium. 25-30% of cow’s milk is absorbed by the body.

Infant formulas contain 15.6 mg/oz calcium; toddler formulas contain 24-27 mg/oz calcium. Extra calcium is added to infant formulas because of the lower bioavailability of the calcium from formulas as compared to human milk (they aim for baby to absorb the same amount of calcium as would be absorbed from breastmilk).

Toddler formulas have come on the market in recent years touting that they’re great nutrition for the 12+ month group. In reality, it’s all clever marketing. If you supplement baby with formula, there’s no need to switch to a toddler formula at 12+ months. In the second year of life, growth slows. Your toddler doesn’t gain weight or length as quickly as they did right after birth.

If you’re still breastfeeding, your milk adjusts to this based on how toddler nurses; how the breast is emptied tells your body what kind of milk to make. When breast milk is the primary diet, like in the first 6 months, your milk is made for growth and immunity. When your toddler is taking lots of table foods and nursing, your milk is made for development and immunity.

At 1 you don’t need a fancy toddler formula or cow’s milk. If you’re exclusively formula feeding, switching to whole cow’s milk is fine. While cow’s milk is a convenient source of calcium, protein, fats, and vitamin D, there’s no need to switch to that, either. As long as your child takes a wide variety in their diet and has a good source of calcium (yogurt, cheese, dark leafy greens like spinach, fortified cereals or juice, soybeans, etc), just choose what you offer your child wisely. If you’re still breastfeeding, know your child is getting good nutrition from your milk suited to their growing needs. If you’re concerned about your toddlers diet or they don’t eat a wide variety, consult your pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist for advice and help.

Sudden breast milk supply drop

Breastfeeding going well and all of a sudden you feel like your milk is gone? Go pee on a stick. A drastic drop in milk supply when breastfeeding has been going well can be a sign of pregnancy, even if your period hasn’t come back yet. Research shows it is safe to continue breastfeeding while pregnant and does not increase the risk of miscarriage. So there no reason to wean unless you’re a high risk pregnancy (if you are told by your health care provider that you can’t have sex, you shouldn’t breastfeed. If it’s safe to have sex, it’s safe to continue breastfeeding.) If so you are not alone—far from it.

Key points to remember when breastfeeding and pregnant:

• Milk will shift from mature milk back to colostrum around 14-20 weeks of your pregnancy to prepare for the birth. Babies under 6 months may not get enough milk from the breast alone while toddler eating solids may do fine. Monitor weight gain for babies under 1 year

• Colostrum is saltier than mature milk. Some nurslings are fine with the taste shift and others may self wean

• Aim for a total of about 600 to 800 extra calories — 300 for the fetus and 300 to 500 for milk production.

• Nipples may become extremely tender during pregnancy, especially at the beginning, due to hormone changes

• Breastfeeding aversion while pregnant is normal (feelings of stress or anxiety or wanting to stop breastfeeding)

• If your toddler always nurses to sleep, you may want to find other sleep routines to make putting older one to sleep easier when you have the new baby.

• As your belly grows, you may need to experiment with new breastfeeding positions.