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Supplementing Breastfeeding with Formula

Understand possible consequences and make an informed decision.

If you are considering supplementing your baby's diet with formula, which is a breast milk substitute, you should understand the possible consequences and make an informed decision.

Research shows that supplementation with a breast milk substitute is associated with:

Milk intolerance

Exposure to the proteins used in breast milk substitutes may cause your baby to develop a hypersensitivity or intolerance to cow's milk. It is possible for this to occur with only one formula feeding.

Nipple confusion and unsuccessful breastfeeding

Suckling at the breast is different from sucking on an articial nipple. If an artificial nipple is introduced in the first few weeks, the baby may become "nipple confused" and unable to latch on correctly for successful breastfeeding. If you supplement with formula, your baby will have less time at the breast and be less able to empty the breast. This will decrease your milk production.

Increased risk, when introduced in the first weeks of life:

  • poor weight gain
  • dehydration
  • jaundice
  • plugged milk ducts
  • engorgement
  • mastitis
  • early weaning


Reevaluate as needed

Supplementation may be indicated for specific medical conditions or in the future as you consider returning to work or weaning.

For more information, consult your lactation consultant or health care provider.

Supporting your choice

Regardless of whether a baby is fed by breast or bottle, Methodist Women's Hospital supports a parent's choice, with programs in place to help all new families get off to a healthy start.