Breastfeeding, Bottles and Formula
Breast milk is the only food your baby needs for the first six months of age. Supplements are not required except in special circumstances. Your Pediatric Provider will work with you to decide whether your baby needs supplemental feedings. A clear understanding of how the breast milk supply is established will help you and your baby get the right start.
The Right Start
The first few days are crucial for a baby learning to breastfeed. A proper latch is vital to success. A baby needs to practice frequently to learn these skills.
- Because milk production is based on demand, it is important to exclusively breastfeed until your milk supply is established. (4-6 weeks)
- Babies learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding. The early milk —colostrums — is enough for most babies and helps your baby learn how to coordinate their suck and swallow with breathing.
- If a bottle is given too early, your baby may “choose” the easier milk flow that comes from a bottle or have trouble learning how to coordinate the muscles used for breastfeeding.
- Some parents may want to use both breast and bottle. It is best to wait a few weeks (4-6) before introducing the bottle to make sure breastfeeding is well established.
What if My Baby Needs Supplemental Feedings?
- There may be special circumstances when your Pediatric Practitioner advises supplements in the first few days. They will make the recommendation and discuss it with you.
- The need for supplements will probably be short term and you can use a bottle alternative, such as a small, specialized cup, to minimize negative affects on breastfeeding.
- Pumping the breasts may be advised to encourage continued milk production.
- A Lactation Consultant can assist you and your baby during this time. Call Newborn Connections at (415) 600-BABY to schedule an appointment.
What if I Want to Bottle and Breastfeed?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wait until after the milk supply is established (4-6 weeks) before adding bottles to your baby’s feeding routine.
- Consult with a Lactation Consultant about how to introduce a bottle and strategies to maintain your milk supply.
- Though no bottle can simulate the breast, you can use a bottle designed to function or provide milk flow as similar to the breast as possible. Avent is one type and is sold at Newborn Connections and through the Traveling Boutique.
Tips for Success
- Allow frequent, unrestricted breastfeedings, 8-12 per day or every 1-3 hours. Watch your baby’s feeding cues rather than the clock to determine how often to feed and for how long at each feeding. Some feedings will be longer than others and sometimes you will need to wake your baby to feed.
- Provide skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby as much as possible.
- Most nipple pain beyond 30 seconds indicates an incorrect latch.
- Mother and baby should room in together whenever possible, even at night.
- Ask nursing staff to teach proper latching and positioning techniques.
- A referral to a Lactation Consultant can be made for persistent problems.
- Remember that supplemental feedings are rarely needed.
- Refer to your copy of You and Your Baby for more helpful information.
Why Bottles are Discouraged for the First Weeks
- Early introduction of formula may adversely affect a mother’s milk supply. This is because babies given formula usually nurse less at the breast. Less nursing can result in low milk production.
- A mother’s milk volume is based on frequent removal of milk from the breast. The more a baby feeds at the breast, the faster a baby learns how to correctly suckle and the more milk a mother produces.
- Bottles are “fast-flow.” The breast is “slow-flow” (at least until the milk supply has been well established). A baby may choose the easier “fast-flow” method.
- Early introduction of bottles and artificial nipples can cause breastfeeding difficulties. Babies use their mouth muscles differently on bottles and pacifiers than they do on the breast.
- Sore or damaged nipples may result from an incorrect latch after babies drink from a bottle.
- Clinical research shows that early introduction of formula and bottles contributes to early weaning of breastfeeding due to feeding problems at the breast.