Supplementing Breastfeeding With Formula: Safety & Tips

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Breastfeeding is ideally the best way to feed an infant in the initial six months. However, there may be times when you have to consider supplementing breastfeeding with formula due to several reasons. Choosing to give formula in addition to breastmilk is completely safe and could be opted following a piece of medical advice from your child’s doctor. Nevertheless, you may wonder what the right time to start formula feeding along with breastfeeding is. Read on to explore some important aspects of formula feeding and tips to keep in mind before combining formula with breastfeeding.

What Is Formula Feeding?

Formula feeding is a feeding technique where the baby is given infant formula instead of breastmilk. It is usually done when breastfeeding is not possible or when breastmilk supply is insufficient (1).

Typically, formulae include manufactured foods designed to meet the nutritional needs of the babies that you can bottle-feed your little one.

Formula Feeds- An Overview:

Infant formula is an umbrella term that describes the many supplements for babies under twelve months. Typically, a formula is a fine powder that you can dilute with boiled water.

Sometimes, babies as old as twenty-five days begin the formula feed. The supplement is an extract of cow’s milk. Formula feeds contain all the necessary nutrients your infant needs and is healthy for babies (2). Yet, parents should not feed their babies formula foods until they are six-months-old, or unless complications leave you with no other option but to feed them formula foods (3). Breastfeeding helps boost your baby’s immunity, and nothing can replace it.

Why Formula Feeding?

Nursing moms consider formula feeding their little bundle of joy for many reasons. For working mommies, it’s about getting back to work. Some mothers don’t replace formula feeds with breastfeeding and combine both to ensure that their baby gets the best of both worlds. For instance, if you are a working mom, you can feed your baby formula when you are at work, and breastfeed your baby when you come back home.

Typically, Formula Feeds Feature When

  • Moms with HIV or tuberculosis can’t breastfeed their little ones due to fatigue and weakness (4).
  • If your baby experiences discomfort in breastfeeding, you can swap breastfeeding with formula feeds.
  • If your baby is prone to malnutrition and requires high nutrients, you can supplement their diet with formula feeds.
  • Babies have medical conditions, such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria.
  • Mothers who are unable to bear the nipple pain or mothers who are worried about their breast shape can also consider using formula feeds.
  • If your baby needs to feed and you are stuck in a public place, formula feed can come to your rescue.

Gearing Up For Supplementing Breastfeeding With Formula

Now that you have decided to begin your baby’s bottle-feeding sessions, here are some basics you need to know (1).

1. Research Options:

Conduct extensive research on all the supplements available in the market, and consult your pediatrician to determine the best choice.

2. Introduce Formula:

The step is quite crucial as shifting your little angel to supplements suddenly can create complications. Introduce formula feed to their diet gradually and help them feed through a bottle. There are many types of formula feeds available, including:

  • Milk based supplements rich in fat and casein.
  • Dried soy milk and standard milk fortified with minerals.

3. Use Proper Technique:

Follow these simple steps to use the right technique to feed your baby (5):

  1. The most important step, use the correct technique and ensure that your baby is in the right posture while feeding.
  1. Don’t leave your baby alone with the bottle, at least until he is comfortable with it.
  1. Don’t let your little one use the bottle feeder as a chew toy.
  1. Sterilize the bottle and rubber with warm water after you wash them.
  1. Try to prepare a fresh feed, don’t store formula feeds. If you must store it, pick a cool and dry place.
  1. Ensure that the rubber nipple of the pacifier is comfortable for your little one to suck. Find one that mimics a mother’s nipple for an easy transition.
  1. Check how warm the formula is before feeding. Don’t pour hot feed into the bottle. It should be tenderly warm, but not hot for your baby.
  1. Ensure that the bottle supply is not choking your baby.
  1. Pick a peaceful place to feed your baby.
  1. For first-time feeders, insert your finger into your baby’s mouth and replace it with the rubber tip of the bottle.
  1. Let your baby find their way, gently direct them motion to allow better sucking.
  1. Feed your baby in installments. Allow them time to digest the formula.
  1. Remember to warm your baby up before and after feeding. A nice rub down stimulates appetite while a gentle massage after feeding helps your baby digest the food.
  1. As soon as your little angel completes a feed, set them down for a while and pat their back until they burp. Don’t let them sleep immediately.

4. Know What You Feed Your Baby:

Don’t go by the glitzy commercials when you are choosing a baby supplement. Understand the pros and cons of all types of formula feeds before you begin formula feeding. Ensure you read up on the constituent formulae of these supplements and understand how the contents can potentially harm your baby. If you have any doubts, speak to your pediatrician.

5. Feed Your Baby Yourself:

Feeding is a special time for your baby, and he might get cranky or uncomfortable if faced with other people. Whenever possible, try and feed your baby by yourself.

Disadvantages Of Formula Feed

Although formula feeding has several benefits, some of the major disadvantages of formula feed include (6) (7):

  • Your baby may need time to adapt to the formula feed.
  • If he does take the formula feed, he may even stop liking your breast milk.
  • The baby formula takes time to digest which results in lesser feed for the baby than those breastfeeding.
  • Your baby might suffer from constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting when you begin their formula feed.
  • Non-feeding lactating women face several complications.

Breastfeeding is the best nutritional source for your baby in the first six months of life. However, you may opt to supplement your breastmilk with formula for various reasons, such as infant malnutrition or medical condition. Before supplementing breast milk with formula, you should consider consulting your baby’s pediatrician. Further, do your research and choose the best formula and correct technique while introducing it to your little one. Be aware of the formula’s components and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about its effects on your baby.


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Melissa Kotlen

Melissa Kotlen has been advising mothers on breastfeeding issues for 17 years. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a Registered Nurse (RN), with additional background in Midwifery. Melissa also provides lactation guidance and assists with business development matters for MommaWork, a company focusing on supporting working mothers. Melissa assists women on breastfeeding issues in private, classroom,... more

Jessica Albert

Jessica Albert is a passionate writer who seeks to connect with her readers through wit and charm. Her work aims to invoke curiosity and keep the readers engaged through and through. She has prior experience working with magazines and e-commerce establishments as a content marketer and editor. Being a mother herself, she puts all her knowledge into creating content about... more