Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Breastfeeding Moms Could Need Formula More Than They Know

Posted by on May. 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM
  • 31 Replies

Breastfeeding Moms Could Need Formula More Than They Know

by Jeanne Sager 

bottlefeedingWell knock me over with a feather! For as long as I can remember -- or at least since I started reading every book I could find on babies during my pregnancy -- I've heard that formula is harmful to moms trying to initiate breastfeeding. And now a bunch of researchers say that's not really true.

Word out of the University of California San Francisco is that early formula use can actually -- gasp -- help breastfeeding moms.

Ready to fill up those bottles?

Just hold on a second ...

The study -- supported by a grant from the National Institute of Children Health and Human Development and just published online by the medical journal Pediatrics -- refers only to what they call early limited formula (or the adorable nickname ELF) use. Under their guidelines, small amounts of formula are given to babies to help curb their hunger while mom waits for her milk to come in, but mom still breastfeeds.

The study took 40 newborns who had lost 5 percent of their birth weight and whose moms' milk hadn't come in yet and split them into two groups. One got ELF. The other group was breastfed exclusively. When they checked back at 3 months, almost 80 percent of the babies who were given formula early on were breastfeeding exclusively. Forty-two percent of the moms who'd breastfed exclusively from the get-go were still doing so. 

The goal of ELF is to help moms and babies both -- it keeps the little ones from losing weight and helps prevent moms from giving in to the stress of not "making enough" to sate a hungry baby. In all, it's only supposed to last a few days before moms goes to full breastfeeding.

It all sounds pretty tricky, and even the folks at UCSF admit it's not perfect. In a press release, the study's lead author Dr. Valerie Flaherman, an assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, even calls formula use a "slippery slope to breastfeeding discontinuation.

But I'm buying what they're selling ... if only because I remember those early days after my daughter was born, when nothing, and I mean NOTHING satisfied her. My nipples were rubbed raw and felt like they were going to fall off, and still she screamed. I didn't want to give her a pacifier -- because of course the books all tell you that causes nipple confusion -- and I was at my wit's end.

I ended up sinking into postpartum depression in no small part because of my feelings of failure and inadequacy as a mom who wasn't doing well at this breastfeeding thing.

I can only imagine how much less stressed I would have been if someone had said, "hey, a little formula isn't a bad thing." If someone -- a medical someone -- had helped me lay out a plan for a little formula to get us over the hump, a plan that had a specific beginning and end so that it was only a supplement and NOT a crutch that ruined my breastfeeding future.

That's what the folks at UCSF are talking about. They're not saying moms should pump baby full of something man-made from here until eternity. Just give that ravenous baby something to drink when mom can't make it ... something to help mom get over the hump while her poor body adjusts to new motherhood.

If that's what it takes to make breastfeeding work for a long time, it just might be worth it.

Did you ever supplement with formula? Did it help or hinder your breastfeeding experience?

by on May. 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
by Member on May. 13, 2013 at 1:59 PM
3 moms liked this

I never supplemented early on. With my 1st I did end up supplementing (around 6 months) due to a combination of lack of knowledge of bf'ing, a bad pump, and less than ideal pumping environment. With my 2nd I learned and I didn't have to supplement. I'm hoping not to supplement with #3.

I guess I don't see the need for early supplementing unless under dire cirmcumstances. The reason babies nurse so much in the beginning is to tell the mother's body to make more milk. Supplementing even a tiny bit can hurt that process.

by Silver Member on May. 13, 2013 at 2:59 PM
I supplemented my youngest when she was born for the first 4 days I fed her my milk then the formula but she was in the nicu and I could only hold for 30 mins every 3 hours. she was sick and needed more nutrition than I was providing at the time (my milk hadn't come in) but by the fourth day she was fully on my milk. I wouldnt suggest this to every new mom but the ones in situations where supplements are needed I see no problem with it.
*edit to add....... I also pumped every two hours around the clock to fed her my milk and to help my milk come in since she wasnt nursing.
by Platinum Member on May. 13, 2013 at 3:35 PM

I supplemented when i was not able to breastfeed.  At the hospital they gave her formula through a little tube thing and used an actual cup for her to drink from rather than a bottle.   

by Jojo on May. 13, 2013 at 3:47 PM

I never supplemented at all, I breastfed my son until he was 14 months. 

by Bronze Member on May. 13, 2013 at 5:20 PM

I only read the first part of the article but this has proven to be true in 3 of my children. My babies could not tolerate waiting for my milk to come in. There blood sugar would drop dangerously low and I had no choice but to supplement while we waited for my milk to come in. 

I would use this bottle that would hang from my neck, it had tubing that would extend to my nipples. When the baby would suck he would receive the colostrum along with the formula that was in the bottle that was hanging from my neck. I'm sorry I can't remember for the life of me what it is called. I know Medela makes it. 

Anyway, by using this method I avoid nipple confusion and was able to regulate there blood sugars. Once my milk came in a few days later it was smooth sailing.

by Bronze Member on May. 14, 2013 at 12:15 AM

This is common practice at the Japanese hospital where I delivered my son. The nurses seemed very surprised that I did not want to use any formula at all, while I was surprised that in a country where most mothers breastfeed their children, the hospital was offering formula. But this makes sense.

by Member on May. 14, 2013 at 12:23 AM

i did NOT supplement my first and was only able to do so for 6 weeks!! then straight to formula i dried up! it sucked...

with my second yes we suplemented while in the hospital that was it and she is still breast feeding and im pumping as well and she is 3 weeks old now.

by Member on May. 14, 2013 at 12:25 AM
DD went to NICU at around 12hrs old & they pretty much insisted on supplementing, esp once she developed jaundice.

Every ounce counts! I like that BFing ad much better than breast is best. My DD got an uncountable number of ounces of my breast milk the first 11mo of her life. Woo Hoo!
by on May. 14, 2013 at 2:44 AM
I did when baby was a week old but due to high milk supply I let go and my baby's just healthy than when she was on formular.
by on May. 14, 2013 at 5:43 AM

Hi my name is kristal, and im glad you posted this because breast feeding was the biggest issue of why I went though such horrible postpartum depression. I had to stop breast feeding because I was not producing healthy milk for my son, at first i wasn't producing enough milk and when it did finally come in the milk that was being produced was not any good and my baby got sick really bad from it. I felt like I was a fail er at being a mother, that I couldn't provide for my son till my sons pediatrician told me to switch to formula and when I did my little william started doing so much better. I still get depressed and have a hard time at the fact that I cant breastfeed  any more, only because its a special bonding that you get when you do, but I am proud at the fact that my son is doing so much better getting the nutrients he needs to  grow strong and healthy from the formula.

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)