baby taking bottle

When to Use Infant Formula

How to Know When to Incorporate Formula

Infant formula is not evil. The number 1 goal is to feed the baby and you yourself need to assess the risks, benefits and how these play into your feeding goals. AS LONG AS YOU FEEL INFORMED IN YOUR CHOICE, you can have all the mama power in the world.

Let me inform you.

One tidbit before we start. NEVER GIVE UP ON BREASTFEEDING ON YOUR WORST DAY.  The studies comparing the health-related differences between formula and breastfeeding are in the thousands. Therefore, choosing between breastmilk and formula for your baby shouldn’t be taken lightly – even though plenty of healthcare providers pass it off as a choice similar to choosing between having coffee or tea as a morning beverage. Keep trying and stay strong, you got this mama! I am here to inform you so that you can make the best choice for your situation that you can feel confident in. Mama, you do YOU! There can be many reasons you may choose, or need to, introduce formula (such as going back to work, having trouble with milk production, having another care provider).

But, let’s talk about the 3 top reasons when incorporating formula may not always be the best choice.

  1. You are incorporating formula because you are worried about how much baby is getting WITHOUT confirming that baby is actually not getting enough. Make sure you consult a  breastfeeding specialist to confirm baby’s growth trends. AND getting a good accurate weight plotted on the growth chart. Always, always double-check with a professional! Make sure that when you are looking at age-appropriate weight gain, the provider is using the WHO growth chart.
  2. You are worried that your breastmilk is not good enough, or, you have concerns that baby is allergic? Maybe you are worried baby is not tolerating breastmilk?  Remember all babies are gassy and fussy sometimes. If you have serious concerns about a food allergy, consult an IBCLC and/or an allergist before stopping breastfeeding. Most formulas are made from the proteins that your baby may be reacting to and there is no guarantee that baby will LIKE the ones that are allergy-free.

“To top off” baby after a feed or to use a formula to fill in the gaps. There can be easy ways to have breastmilk in the fridge for those times that you need it.

 There are a  few important things to remember when starting a formula:

  • When you INTRODUCE formula, your baby’s intestinal flora (belly bacteria) will change to that closer to an adult’s. This means that things such as poop and digestion may also change. If you are using formula for a short time, it takes 2 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding for good bacteria to build back.
  • Remember back when we talked about increasing milk supply? It has been proved that breastmilk supply decreases when you start baby on formula -unless you are pumping for each time you are offering a bottle. If long term breastfeeding is not for you, that’s totally fine! I want you to be informed in your choice to supplement with formula, and want to continue to breastfeed, you must keep an eye on how much you are pumping.
  • Pay attention to how to prepare formula safely. Powdered infant formula is not sterile. It may contain bacteria that can cause serious illnesses in babies. Correct preparation and handling reduce the risk of illness. What is also important for safety? The amount of water added to the powder changes the nutritional value. Only do so if told by a dietitian or doctor -mix to the recipe on the can, please! All formulas vary slightly, so just adhere to the instructions for each one.

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Emily Sylvester

Emily Sylvester is the Founder & CEO of Mother of Fact. As a Licensed Registered Dietitian, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Mom of 3, she's helped thousands of families in many low/middle income communities feel confident and supported in their feeding journey. Her mission is to eliminate the deficit of equitable breastfeeding & formula feeding help for all households & healthcare systems.
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