Partial Breastfeeding - Should I Even Bother?

For some women, feeding a baby with breastmilk alone is not possible. The reasons for this vary. For instance, some Moms have had previous breast surgery and have damage to their milk producing glands and ducts. Other choose to mix formula and breastmilk feeding because they are working outside the home and cannot pump enough milk for baby’s needs. Still other Moms are adoptive nursing and are unable to bring in a full supply. These Moms may wonder if their baby is benefitting at all from the partial breastfeeding or if they should just quit nursing altogether.

To that, I resolutely say no. Breastfeeding does not have to be an all or nothing proposition! Every drop of mother’s milk a baby gets is a gift. Of course, the ideal situation is for Mom to exclusively breastfeed, but this isn’t possible for all Moms, and they should not stop nursing if this ideal can’t be reached. Your baby gains from the immunological, nutritional and other health benefits of breastmilk in any size “dose”.

The World Health Organization defines partial breastfeeding as: “giving a baby some breastfeeds, and some artificial feeds, either milk or cereal, or other food.” So by definition, a Mother who exclusively breastfed her infant for some time but who is now offering solid foods is also partially breastfeeding.

If you are working outside the home and find that you cannot pump enough to meet baby’s needs, don’t give up nursing. If measures to increase your supply or pumping output have failed, continue to breastfeed your baby as much as you can when you’re with him, including at night. Don’t fall prey to feelings of guilt or inadequacy either, they won’t do you or baby any good. Applaud your efforts to continue giving your baby the best.

Your baby also enjoys the aspects of nursing that have nothing to do with the milk: the pleasure of skin to skin contact, increased bonding, and the stimulation of your hormones (such as oxytocin and prolaction) that make you feel happier and reduce feelings of stress. The baby also will benefit from better jaw and facial development and the comfort that sucking at the breast provides.

This is in no way belittles the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, but in cases where it’s impossible to do so, any amount of breastfeeding is a good thing.

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