‘Switch Feeding’ A Game-Changer for Boosting Milk Supply and Baby Weight Gain

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Switch feeding involves alternating breasts multiple times during a feed, based on the baby's suckling behaviour and effective milk transfer. This technique can boost milk supply, increase weight gain, and extend active feeding time. It often reduces the need for 'triple feeding', making it a valuable tool for breastfeeding mothers.

When faced with slow weight gain in infants and potentially low milk supply, many breastfeeding mothers are often advised to try ‘triple-feeding’ – a method that involves breastfeeding, followed by pumping, and then topping up with expressed breast milk and possible formula. While this approach has its place in certain circumstances, there’s another technique that can be just as effective, if not more so: ‘switch feeding’ or ‘switch nursing’. This method can help increase weight gain, boost milk supply, and potentially avoid or shorten the demanding cycle of ‘triple-feeding’.

What is 'Switch Feeding'?

‘Switch feeding’ involves alternating breasts multiple times during a single feeding session, based solely on the baby’s behaviour. Unlike the common advice to swap breasts after a set amount of time, ‘switch feeding’ relies on how actively the baby is suckling and transferring milk.

How to Practise 'Switch Feeding':

1. Start feeding on one breast.
2. When there are no more audible swallows, despite breast compressions and gentle stimulation, switch to the other breast.
3. Once the baby shows the same signs on the second breast, switch back to the first.
4. Continue this pattern, aiming to switch sides at least three times per feeding session.

A typical 'switch feeding' session might look like this:

  • Right breast- 7 minutes
  • Left breast- 3 minutes on the
  • Back on the right – 4 minutes
  • Left breast- 1 minute
  • Continue until the baby won’t take any more – despite ‘breast compressions’ and showing¬†signs of being full.

Benefits of 'Switch Feeding':

1. Rouses a sleepy babies: Repositioning the baby during feeding helps keep them awake and engaged.
2. Increases milk removal: By taking advantage of multiple let-downs, the baby can remove more milk per feeding session.
3. Extends active feeding time: Switching breasts encourages babies to feed actively for longer periods.
4. Stimulates supply: More milk removal from the breasts per feed signals the body to produce more milk.

'Switch Feeding' vs. Traditional Methods:

Consider a scenario where a baby feeds for 10 minutes on each breast without switching. While the total feeding time is 20 minutes, the baby might only be actively feeding for about 10 minutes. With switch feeding, the same baby could spend 15 minutes or more actively feeding – a 50% increase in demand on the mother’s supply.

Debunking the 'Foremilk' and 'Hindmilk' Myth:

Some mothers might be hesitant to try switch feeding due to outdated information about ‘foremilk’ and ‘hindmilk’. However, recent research has dispelled this theory.

We now know that:

1. Fat content in breast milk doesn’t suddenly increase at the end of a feed.
2. There’s a slow, gradual increase in fat content over the total breastfeeding time.
3. The only factor that significantly impacts weight gain is the total milk volume intake.

‘Switch feeding’ is a valuable technique that can significantly boost milk supply and infant weight gain. For many mothers, it can be a game-changer in their breastfeeding journey, often reducing or eliminating the need for ‘triple feeding’. By understanding and implementing this method, mothers can more effectively meet their babies’ nutritional needs while supporting their own milk production.

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