Study Says Giving Some Formula to Newborns Will Not Interfere with Breastfeeding Success

posted: 03/29/18
by: Amanda Mushro
Young mother, holding tenderly her newborn baby boy, close portrait

When my son was born, I imagined motherhood as snuggling my baby in between nursing sessions and both of us napping. But then my boy arrived and there wasn't a lot of napping on my part and nursing did not come easily to me or him. After many failed attempts, lots of tears for both of us, and some extra support from a lactation specialist, we finally got breastfeeding down. But those first few days were rough and many new mothers often feel this way. Now findings from a new study may help moms during the early days of breastfeeding.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, mothers who supplemented some feedings by using formula after first breastfeeding actually improved their chances of breastfeeding in the coming months. This is amazing news for any new mom that wants to breastfeed but has difficulty nursing their baby in those early days. While a mom waits for her milk to come in, she can continue to breastfeed as well as supplement with formula and feel comfortable that it will not confuse the baby or affect breastfeeding success.

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"Our research shows that in healthy newborns with pronounced weight loss, adding formula for a limited period did not interfere with breastfeeding," says author of the study Valerie Flaherman, MD. "These results indicate that it may be time for guidelines to include specific guidance about which infants may benefit from supplementation until the mother's milk comes in."

For this study, researchers examined 164 exclusively breastfed infants. Each newborn was between one and three days old and had a weight loss that was in the 75th percentile or above. Researchers noted that half of the mothers began supplementing with syringe-fed formula for a few days until their breastmilk came in. While the other mothers continued exclusively breastfeeding. What they found was that by one week of age, a slightly higher rate of the supplemented babies were still breastfeeding successfully.

Researchers hope that these findings will help support mothers and babies during the early days of breastfeeding. If a mother feels like she has options to keep her baby healthy and safe while her milk comes in, she is more likely to continue breastfeeding. "The targeted use of a limited volume of syringe-fed formula may provide the best of both worlds: improved hydration in the first few days, with sustained breastfeeding over the first month," Flaherman says.

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If you choose to breastfeed, formula feed, or a combo of both, it's great to know that researchers are finding ways to support news moms and keep babies happy and healthy.