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Does Formula Affect Breast Milk Supply?

January 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Jennifer A. Gardner, MD

As a pediatrician, I’m frequently asked if formula affects breast milk supply. This is an important question, because nearly half of all mothers who plan to exclusively breast-feed end up supplementing with formula. Plus, a recent survey1 conducted by store brand formula found that three out of four moms use infant formula at some point during baby’s first year. Additionally, 17 percent of moms planned to wait until their baby was six months old to introduce infant-formula feeding; but only four percent made it that long.

So, does baby formula affect breast milk supply?

The answer, simply put, is yes and no.

The good news is that supplementing will not stop milk production, but it could decrease it. Fortunately, there are many approaches a family can take to minimize the risk of decreasing the mother’s breast milk supply.

First, whenever possible, introduce the bottle only after successful breastfeeding has been established. This avoids nipple confusion and helps ensure a healthy supply of breast milk. Since this strategy isn’t always possible, sometimes supplementing is considered earlier because of an inadequate milk supply.

In this case, supplement with formula only as needed. Your goal to maintain adequate milk supply is to empty the breast with each feed. This means breastfeeding as much as possible and pumping when you do bottle-feed. When you pump and add the breast milk to formula, your baby gets the volume and calories he needs, and you get the signal to keep producing milk!

A baby must work harder when breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. You can use a special nipple that makes the baby work harder so she doesn’t associate bottle-feeding with easier feeding!

In the end, the decision to supplement or when to supplement is a very personal one. You must weigh the benefits of formula with the potential for decreased milk production. The survey also discovered that 35 percent of moms chose to feed their baby with infant formula so they could share the feeding responsibilities for baby with their spouse. While this decision may be difficult, there are no right or wrong decisions. What we know is that all babies do best when the mother is relaxed and confident with feedings. If supplementing with formula reduces your stress level, this may help with breast milk production.

Whether moms choose to breastfeed, formula-feed, or use some combination of both, parents should feel confident in their decision. In fact, did you know that all infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the same FDA standards and offer complete nutrition for baby? That means even cost-saving store brand formula is nutritionally comparable to nationally advertised brands.

And remember to give yourself credit. I tell my patients that any amount of breast milk is beneficial to your baby. There’s never room for guilt in the feeding relationship.

About the author: Jennifer A Gardner, MD, is a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC.


The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.