Onward and forward we go. What about formula? What happens if supplementation is necessary? First off, formula is a totally acceptable form of nutrition and there are many circumstances where supplementing with formula is needed. Prematurity (this includes late-pretermers too), low blood sugar, excessive weight loss, significant jaundice, or maternal reasons (illness or complications from delivery) are all valid reasons for formula supplementation. It doesn't mean you're a failure. It also doesn't have to ruin your desire to breastfeed. Don't forget, you gotta be stubborn!
Resist the urge to supplement with formula in the few days between birth and when the breast milk comes in. Remember when I said it can take several days for mature milk to arrive? Healthy, full-term babies are born with a little extra chub-chub to burn off during those first few days. In fact, it's not uncommon for babies to lose up to 10% of their initial body weight. If your bundle of joy weighs 9 and a half pounds at birth like mine did, losing 10% can look like a LOT of weight. Just keep going back to the breast regularly, and watch your baby's output. The number of wet and dirty diapers is your clue as to whether or not he is getting enough.
Maybe you're as stubborn as a mule and yet things just aren't working out like you'd hoped. There are certainly speed bumps that can pop up, which can make navigating around breastfeeding a lot more difficult. Low production, flat or inverted nipples, issues with latch, tongue tie, mastitis, engorgement, and nipple breakdown are some of the most common problems encountered while breastfeeding. My advice? Call a Lactation consultant. Certified lactation consultants can be a wealth of knowledge. Establishing contact with an LC prior to hospital discharge is a great foundation for future success.
Finally, with increased education comes increased chances of success. I can think of about a dozen more talking points regarding nursing, there is still so much to say! If you are serious about breastfeeding, look into taking a class. There are also tons of books, websites and blogs that are WAY more informative.
I know I've already said "finally," but I have one more thing to say about breastfeeding. There's this turning point that happens one day and suddenly things start getting easier. You see, despite it being exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and grit-my-teeth painful (lanolin, cold gel soothies, and nipple shells were my go-to comfort for nipple soreness), breastfeeding is also kinda magical. For the first 6 months of my son's life, my body provided every drop of nourishment his little body needed. I also protected him from disease (including one particularly nasty stomach bug that everyone in the house got except him). I've read to him, sang to him, prayed over him, studied his perfect little features and kissed his chubby cheeks. For a few minutes each day, he is once again a part of me.
And that makes it all worth it.