Breastfeeding moms are often faced with situations where they might need to rely on formula temporarily or as a regular supplement to breastmilk. Doctors recommending supplementing with formula if there is a health concern where the mother’s milk will be temporarily unsafe for her child due to a procedure or medication. Doctors also recommend supplementing with formula during times when milk supply is low. A mother may have to supplement with formula while she works, or travels. Whatever the reason, supplementing with formula can bring up many concerns and sometimes a few complications.
Problems with Supplementing in the Early Weeks
While you should follow the advice of your doctor based on the specific needs of your baby, I do not recommend supplementing with formula during the first 6 weeks after your baby is born. This time is crucial for developing a long lasting, healthy breastfeeding relationship. It generally takes 6 weeks for a newborn baby to learn how to breastfeed well. If an artificial nipple of any kind is introduced during this time, your baby is at risk for developing nipple confusion. Nipple confusion causes pain during breastfeeding as the latch for a bottle nipple or pacifier is different than the latch needed to breastfeed.
A breastfeeding baby who is given a bottle may also have difficulty switching back to the breast, as breastfeeding is a more complicated process. If a breastfeeding baby is unable to latch onto the breast properly, the breast will not receive the proper stimulation to continue making milk at a normal rate. Latch problems can greatly interfere with a mother’s ability to maintain milk supply.
Introducing formula in the early weeks of a baby’s life can also interfere with a mother’s milk supply. Anytime a baby is eating something other than breastmilk, the mother’s body is not getting the signals it needs to meet the demands of her baby. Breastfeeding is a demand and supply process.
In the first week of a baby’s life, his stomach is tiny, about the size of a marble. This directly relates to the amount of milk his mother is producing. It takes time for the milk to come in. As the milk comes in, a breastfeeding baby’s stomach will stretch with the natural supply. If a mother introduces formula early on in the breastfeeding relationship, her baby’s stomach will stretch with the formula and not with her supply. She may then have difficulty meeting the demands of her baby.
Supplementing Breastmilk with Formula
After a baby has reached the 6 week mark and has well established a breastfeeding routine, introducing pacifiers and bottles is less likely to cause issues with his latch or mother’s milk supply. If you are planning on introducing formula into your baby’s diet, there are several things you should consider.
Introducing Formula: As your baby grows and becomes more used to breastfeeding, he will prefer the breast over formula. Formula does not taste the same as breastmilk. If you know that you will need to supplement with formula, or if you will be switching over to formula, it is helpful to introduce the formula a little at a time. Mixing formula into a bottle of breastmilk gradually, will help your baby get used to the taste. For more information see Transitioning from Breastmilk to Formula.
Choosing the Right Bottle: Choosing a bottle that is compatible with breastfeeding can is also helpful if you are supplementing with formula. See Things to Consider When Choosing a Bottle for more information.
Maintaining Milk Supply: If you will be supplementing with formula, keep in mind that this can affect your milk supply. Anytime your baby is eating something other than breastmilk, it effects your supply. A breastfeeding mother’s body takes all of its supply ques from her baby. If you are not regularly breastfeeding your baby, your milk supply will gradually decrease. If you have to supplement for a medical reason, pump and dump your milk to help you maintain supply. If you will be away from your baby, pump and save your milk to help maintain supply.
Choosing the Right Formula: Breastmilk is one of the most pure and nutritious foods on earth. It not only provides the nutrients your baby needs; but supports gut health; and the immune system. Parents often find that their little one experiences allergies or stomach upset when fed formula. Formulas can often contain many unnecessary and unnatural ingredients. Choose your formula carefully to avoid these issues.
What Formula is Closest to Breastmilk?
While formula companies have been attempting to make their products as close to breastmilk as possible for years, they often fall short of the mark. When you are looking for a formula that is as close to breastmilk as possible, you want to look for something that is pure and organic. The European formulas we offer at MyOrganicFormula.com are as pure and organic as they come. Many of them also contain ingredients which mimic breastmilk’s ability to support a baby’s gut and immune health. HiPP, Holle, Lebenswert and Babylove formulas are all as close to breastmilk as you can get. We have heard from many parents that they make the best supplementary formulas, without disrupting a baby’s fragile digestion. For more information please see the attached articles.