If you want or need
When I became pregnant for the first time, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I had seen my sisters-in-law nurse my nieces and nephews. I had read up on the benefits of breastfeeding babies.
I knew breastmilk was the best food for my new
That was until I found out I was having twins…
How on earth was I going to breastfeed two babies at the same time?!
I took lactation classes, read several books about nursing twins, talked to other twin moms, and made a plan to successfully nurse twins for the entire first year of their lives.
The reality was I ended up breastfeeding and formula feeding twins for 13 months. My babies didn’t receive 100% human breastmilk their entire lives, which was my initial goal.
The reasons for supplementing my twins are many, and I’m sure there are many reasons why you are looking into supplementing while breastfeeding your baby or babies.
I wrote this post for you so you could get some real answers and make the best decisions for you and your baby.
Is It OK to Supplement Formula While Breastfeeding?
Breastmilk is the gold standard of infant nutrition, and you want to know “Is it ok to breastfeed and supplement with formula?”
Ideally, you will pump to supplement breastfeeding or use milk donated to a food bank. But, that’s not always feasible or desired.
It is also absolutely okay (allergies excepting) to introduce formula to breastfed babies, especially if temporary in nature.
Giving your child a bottle of formula doesn’t make you a failure as a breastfeeding mom or mean that you are no longer a breastfeeding mom.
You know what giving your baby a bottle formula means? It means you are making sure your baby has what they need at that moment – FOOD!
Making sure your baby is satiated, content, and happy is always the most important concern you should have, not living up to a 100% exclusive breastmilk only standard.
Many, many women are able to successfully introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby and still nurse from the breast too. Many are able to give formula at one feeding and then nurse at the next without there being any issues.
I want to remind you that once infant formula is introduced to a breastfed baby you do not need to stop breastfeeding! Formula and breastfeeding don’t have to be all-or-nothing choices!
Any amount of breastmilk is still very beneficial to both mom and baby and should continue as long as possible.
In short, the answer to “Can you supplement a breastfed baby with formula?” is, of course, yes! The question though is still should you?
Breastfeeding and Supplementing with Formula Benefits
Many people wonder “Does supplementing formula reduce benefits of breastfeeding?”
And that’s a good question.
Some studies suggest the use of formula can shorten the breastfeeding relationship, however, in some cases it may improve the relationship, as a hungry, underfed, and irritable baby will not breastfeed well.
Other common side-effects you might face as you begin supplementing breastmilk with formula are:
- refusal of the breast
- eating faster
- longer stretches between feedings
- passes stool less often and it becomes firmer
- stool takes on a stronger odor and darker color
- lower milk supply
Generally, there are no big health concerns or risks with supplementing breastfed babies with formula as formula is a great alternative to breastmilk. Instead there are many benefits to the choice, like longer stretches of sleep, less stress and anxiety over producing enough milk (especially if pumping at work), and being able to have other people take care of your baby
Common Reasons for Supplementing While Breastfeeding
I not only supplemented my breastfed twins with
Many mothers need or want to supplement breastfed babies for one or more of the following main reasons:
- Health issues for mother or baby
- Twins and higher multiples
- Milk production and/or breastfeeding difficulties
- Breastmilk or pumping mishaps
- Extended periods of time away from baby
- Ease, convenience, or preference
- Assistance with feedings
There may be additional reasons why someone would supplement with formula while breastfeeding during their breastfeeding journey. It’s extremely common and nothing to be ashamed of, even if you never intended to introduce formula ever to your baby, and even if your reasons are “selfish” or perceived as such from others.
However, if you think your milk supply is low, please consult with a medical professional to assess if this is true. If it is, there are breastfeeding supplements you can take yourself, and other things you can do to increase your milk supply rather than supplementing with formula if you choose.
How to Supplement with Formula While Breastfeeding
Even when using the best formula to supplement breastfeeding, you should only supplement as needed so you don’t lower your breast milk supply so much that you dry up and end your breastfeeding journey prematurely!
It is still the AAP recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months when possible, continuing to nurse alongside solid foods for the rest of the first year. The WHO recommends the same, though extending breastfeeding to 2 years.
Any amount of breastfeeding is still advantageous to baby and mom so keep at it as long as possible!
If supplementing occurs while still at the hospital, your baby should be weaned from bottle back to the breast as soon as
Supplementing regularly should occur as late in the breastfeeding journey as possible in order to establish a great milk supply, great sucking skills from your baby, and avoid possible nipple confusion. Generally, this means waiting at least 4-6 weeks.
This also gives you plenty of time to practice nursing and pumping and building up a breastmilk supply.
To make the supplementing a breastfed baby with formula process go smoother, do the following:
- Only use bottles with slow-flow nipples (smallest size)
- Don’t be the bottle giver
- Keep portion sizes small so baby isn’t completely stuffed
- Introduce supplementation slowly to avoid breast engorgement or clogged milk ducts
- Pump at least once a day to keep supply up for morning/night feedings
- Consider mixing pumped milk with formula
Breastfeeding and Supplementing with Formula Schedule
To start knowing how to breastfeed and supplement, it’s helpful to make a game plan ahead of time in regard to when supplementation will occur (only for the
Talk over the reason(s) with your doctor and partner and secure the best formula for breastfeeding babies, and then start implementing the breastfeeding formula supplement per your decisions.
Expect there to be some difficulties at first if your child isn’t used to the taste of formula or artificial nipples.
Be patient with her and yourself and try to be flexible.
Make only 2 ounces in the bottle at first to conserve costs and get your baby used to it. Once she’s used to the taste, you can increase the amount offered in one feeding.
Supplementing Formula at Night with Breastfeeding
If you are interested in supplementing breastfeeding with formula at night because you are so dog tired and losing your mind from the lack of sleep while breastfeeding, and it is leading to depression or anxiety or severe fatigue during the day, then do the following:
- have your partner take over a late-night feeding
- if you wake engorged in the morning, either pump or let your body adjust (which will take only a couple days)
- work on sleep training your baby
I wouldn’t try supplementing breastfed baby with formula at night until your child has set wake and sleep times, which is usually around 4 months of age. This makes it less likely to be a chaotic transition and you can plan on what time your baby will wake or not.
That’s all my advice for you on how to supplement with formula while breastfeeding! I hope it will help you make the best decisions for you and your baby. May you find great success at taking care of your little one.
This post should not replace expert or professional medical advice.
Always speak to a medical professional if you have concerns about your child’s nutrition.