It is common for newly breastfeeding moms to fall into what we call ‘the top-up trap’. Haven’t heard of this before?

Here’s how it works:

After you have delivered your baby, it takes a few days for your milk to ‘come in’.  In the beginning, all you will have is small amounts of colostrum being secreted.  Moms worry when they don’t see actual milk, and think that perhaps they are not making enough milk for their baby.

You are then inclined to give your baby a top-up of formula milk. Often, we give too much formula for their little stomachs, so they become too full and very sleepy.

Your baby, therefore, won’t be suckling at your breast as much because he or she is sleeping more.

When breastfeeding, our bodies work on a supply and demand process. In other words, the more your baby sucks at your breast, the more milk you will produce. Therefore, because your baby is suckling less, you will start to produce less milk.

This again leads you to give another top-up of formula, and you will slowly (and unknowingly) end up giving more formula than breast milk to your baby until your body can no longer produce adequate amounts of breast milk for your baby.


“But how do I know that my baby is getting enough breast milk from me?”, you are (without a doubt) asking. There are some telltale signs:

  • Your baby has a number of wet nappies (or diapers, if you call ’em that) every day.
  • Your baby is gaining weight (remember that it is normal for your baby to lose 10% of their body weight after being born).
  • Your baby looks ‘milk drunk’ after a feed.
  • You feel your breasts getting softer, and feeling emptied after a feed.
  • You can hear your baby swallowing while feeding.
  • Your baby feeds regularly, looks alert when he’s awake, and makes it known when he wants to be fed, in no uncertain terms..

It is important that you are feeding on demand – in other words, breastfeeding your baby whenever he or she wants to feed. Let your baby guide you. Many moms over-estimate how much milk a baby needs. It can be reassuring to know that your baby will push off the breast once they’ve had enough milk.

Here’s a look at the stomach sizes of a newborn baby:


The most important advice I can give to any newly breastfeeding mom is to have a support system in place to help you as the first few weeks are anything but easy! More importantly, however, is to be confident – trust in yourself, and in your body, that you will be able to breastfeed your baby successfully.

2 comments on “The Breastfeeding Top-Up Trap”

  1. With my first born the peadiatrician told me to top up after a feed because the baby is not getting enough milk. Luckily I had a clinic visit directly after that and the nurse told me to give it some time. Ended up BF 10 months with first born, and 14 months with second.

    Nobody that I know in real life had a succesful breastfeeding experience. They fall into 3 groups, the ones that decided beforehand they are not going to try, some gave up in hospital, and then the biggest group did the top up feeds and then very soon they ran out of milk. They all thought it was because their body wasn’t producing milk, none of them knew it was because the gave more and more bottles.

    • Such an awesome comment – thank you!
      You are absolutely right. I see breastfeeding fail, more than I see it succeed for exactly the 3 reasons you mentioned. It’s so sad (and frustrating), so it’s important that people realize that a top-up is the worst thing you can do if you have a healthy baby and are planning on breastfeeding.

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