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Tips Supplementing with Formula

Updated on February 19, 2017
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Whitney is a mom trying to evoke a healthy, happy life for herself and her family.

When pregnant, you may have dreamt of the ideal labor plans and breastfeeding your baby once he (or she) was in the world. But, things don't always go as plan. Your non-medicated, natural birth may turn into a C-section. And, you just may not produce enough milk to feed your baby.

Never feel inadequate. A fed baby is a happy and healthy baby.

If you have to supplement with formula, you're not the only one.

If you choose to supplement with formula, you're not the only one.

Many moms want to supplement when they go back to work or if they have trouble pumping regularly but don't want to give up nursing completely. Other moms may have low milk production and may need to supplement to keep their baby's tummy full.

Regardless of which boat you sail in, supplementing is ok and it is safe.

Your Milk Supply

Depending on how often you supplement, it can affect your milk supply. The more you supplement, the quicker your milk will diminish.

If you only supplement a bottle a day, you may not notice a slight decrease until nurse again. If you supplement formula and pump for that feeding (to freeze), you won't notice a change in your supply and you can store up milk for later in your baby's life when you do stop nursing or pumping.

Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?

Here are four ways to tell whether or not your baby is getting enough to eat.

  1. Regular dirty diapers. Babies under one month will have frequent yellow stool. Some babies may have one after each feeding, whereas others may not go quite as often, but it will still be regular.
  2. Plenty of wet diapers. Babies who are getting enough to eat will have about six to eight wet diapers a day.
  3. Gaining weight. Babies who are getting enough to eat will gain an average of a half an ounce to a full once a day during the first three months.
  4. Round-the-clock nursing. During a baby's first month, he'll feed at least eight to 12 times a day.

Signs Baby Needs Supplemental Formula

If you're not sure if your baby is getting enough breast milk to eat, you should talk to your pediatrician.

  • More than normal weight loss. It's normal for babies to lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight in the first five days. But by day five, they start to gain up to an ounce a day. And, by week two, they should be back at their birth weight.
  • Your breasts don't feel soft or empty after nursing - a sign that your baby just isn't taking in enough milk.
  • Fewer than six wet diapers in a 24-hour period after five days old.
  • Fussiness and lethargy.

When to Supplement Formula

Wait until your baby is at least one month old. It often takes up to the first month for your milk to become well established.

When introducing formula, your baby may take to it easily or he may refuse it. Some babies will switch from breast to bottle with ease and never once falter.

Other babies may refuse the bottle. Don't give up. It may be harder for your baby if you're the one offering the bottle because he can smell you and prefer the real thing. But don't give up and don't get frustrated. Your baby can sense your frustration.

Types of Baby Formulas

Milk-Based Formulas are made with cow's milk, vegetable oils (for fat), vitamins and minerals. They come in different varieties.

  • Routine formulas are designed for healthy term infants as a substitute for breast milk.
  • Supplemental formulas are designed for healthy term infants that partially breastfeed.
  • Formulas for common feeding concerns are designed for healthy term babies experiencing excessive crying, fussiness, spitting up or gas, not related to any medical condition.
  • Formulas for older babies provide age-specific nutrients for the next stage of development while most of their nutritional needs are still met by a formula

Soy-Based Formulas contain proteins from soybeans, vegetable oils, corn syrup and/or sucrose (for carbohydrates). They're often recommended for infants and older babies with milk intolerance or as a vegetarian option. Soy-based baby formula is not recommended for babies with a low birth weight or preterm babies.

Specialty Formulas include the widest range of formulas. Popular formulas include those for babies with a low birth weight, low-sodium and "predigested" proteins. Use under the advise of your pediatrician.

Hypoallergenic Formulas are special formulas for infants with cow's milk protein allergy. There are two types of hypoallergenic formulas- extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid formulas. Use under the advise of your pediatrician.

Similac and Enfamil are two of the largest formula companies in the United States. Both brands offer powder and ready-to-serve milk in both soy- and milk-based formulas, fortified formula and hypoallergenic formula. Enfamil Gentlease and Similac Sensitive contain milk proteins that have been partially broken down, making it easier for your baby to digest. Similac Alimentum and Enfamil Nutramigen have extensively broken-down proteins for babies who have the greatest sensitivity to cow's milk and soy or colic and fussy.

Gerber Good Start is the third largest formula company. They produce the same types of formula as Similac and Enfamil.

Ingredients at a Glance

Vital for growth. Easy-to-digest protein can help with tolerability.
Supports brain and eye development.
A type of carbohydrate that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the digestive health.
Good bacteria that supports digestive health.
Vitamin D
Important for bone health.
A few important ingredients and nutrients to remember.

How Will Supplementing Affect My Baby

Depending on how much you supplement and how often, the changes will vary. The more formula you offer, the more drastic the changes.

Your baby may go longer in-between feedings. Babies don't digest formula as quickly as they digest breast milk, so they feel full longer.

Dirty diapers will have a different smell, color and consistency. Formula can cause the poo to become more paste-like with a peanut butter consistency. The color may be more of a tan or brown color It may have a stronger odor as well. Your baby may also have fewer poops.

Some formulas may constipate your baby. And if your baby has a milk protein intolerance, you may notice a little blood in his diaper - call your pediatrician immediately.


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