Updated: Apr 10
Supplementing your breastfed newborn with formula: "Should I supplement my newborn baby with formula?"
When you choose to breastfeed your newborn, it can be very overwhelming to hear a doctor recommend supplementing your newborn with formula. Supplemental feeds can negatively impact milk supply and be a huge hurdle to reaching your breastfeeding goals, but sometimes it is necessary. Let’s explore the benefits and risks associated with supplementing your newborn along with the various supplementation options available.
Why Supplement your Newborn Baby?
Parents usually end up providing their baby with supplemental feeds due to the perception that their baby is not getting enough breastmilk. It is important to work with a lactation consultant to determine if that perception is accurate and to discover the root cause of why your baby is not getting enough breastmilk.
Sometimes, even babies who are nursing well will be advised for supplemental feeds due to health conditions like jaundice. However, this is not always the properly indicated approach to properly managing jaundice and supporting breastfeeding. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine has very interesting protocols for this situation. If your baby is jaundice and your provider is recommending supplemental feeds, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this document and using it to aid in conversations with your provider.
Risks of supplementing your newborn
Supplementing your baby without a medical indication, simply because of fear, creates a high risk situation where you could damage your milk supply and negatively impact breastfeeding. Breastmilk is created on a supply-demand basis. When you offer feeds off breast and fill your baby’s belly up with non-breastmilk, it will train your baby to stop cueing for frequent breast-feeds and that will cue your body to stop making as much milk. Additionally, using bottles to feed your baby can create a bottle preference, making latching more challenging for you and baby. Luckily, these are challenges that a good lactation consultant should be able to help you navigate.
When supplementing is indicated, we still run the risk of damaging your milk supply if a supportive plan is not laid out. There are many approaches to supplementing (ie, offer before at breast feed, offer after at breast feed, triple feeding, etc.) and the proper approach for you can only be determined after a thorough assessment with an IBCLC.
Supplemental feeding does not necessarily require formula. Here are the three options for supplemental nutrition for your baby:
Expressed mother’s milk
How to supplement your newborn
Methods of supplementation are also a huge part of the conversation. Depending on the reasons for supplementation and your baby’s health profile, the following options are available:
Supplemental Nursing System (at breast supplementation)
In some cases lactation consultants might recommend supplementing your baby before at breast feeds, sometimes you might be recommended to offer the supplement after an at breast feed, and other times you might be directed to supplement your baby instead of feeding at the breast. Working with a lactation consultant is really important when you are creating your plan for supplementing your breastfed baby.
Preserving breastfeeding is an important part of your supplementation plan, therefore lactation consultants will typically recommend avoiding bottle feeding if possible. Depending on the reason for supplementation, we will often gravitate toward cup or at breast supplemental feeds. If bottle feeding is indicated, your lactation consultant will teach you about paced bottle feeding to ensure you are minimizing the risk of bottle preference.
If you’re unsure whether or not you should be supplementing your newborn, first determine if you think your baby is getting enough milk, then contact a lactation consultant to help you navigate a plan that ensures both your baby’s health and supports your milk supply!
Do you have questions about breastfeeding your baby? Book a virtual lactation consult with Jaimie today! For more tips on pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding follow me on instagram @littlebearbirthservices
Please note this article is not intended as specific medical advice. It is imperative that you and your baby are assessed by a lactation professional to create a personalized lactation care plan based on your individual needs.
Jaimie Zaki is an Air Force Wife, Catholic Mother of four Little Bears, Motherhood Photographer, Birth Doula, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. As a former nurse, Jaimie discovered the gaps in support for mothers and decided to dedicate her life to supporting mothers like you from pregnancy through the first year of motherhood as you navigate writing your birth plan, processing your birth experience, and breastfeeding your baby. Jaimie offers breastfeeding classes, prenatal birth plan consults, prenatal lactation consults, and postpartum lactation consults both virtually and in Wichita Falls, Texas and the surrounding North Texas region. Connect online instagram.com/littlebearbirthservices