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Knowing how to supplement with formula can be a little confusing.
It is also a hesitant move for a lot moms who have exclusively given their babies breast milk and I can deeply empathize with this feeling.
In this post, we’re going to focus on everything you should know about supplementing your breast milk fed baby with formula.
There will also be informative recommendations on what formulas are best for breastfed babies.
The goal is to provide you with as much information on this topic as possible so you can leave this post feeling like every question you had regarding supplementing with formula was answered (and then some).
- Common Reasons to Supplement with Formula
- Commonly Asked Questions about Supplementing with Formula
- Best Formulas for Breastfed Babies
- European Formuals
- Infant Formula Preparation
- Storing and Using Formula
Supplementing with formula can be a hard transition for mom and baby.
Many women who have exclusively breastfed their babies with breast milk want to hold off as long as possible when it comes to introducing formula.
Understandably so, because changing a baby’s diet can come with many upsets and unknowns.
So, let’s look at some common reasons why you may be considering supplementing breastfeeding with formula.
- Your breast milk supply is not meeting your baby’s daily demands.
- Your milk supply hasn’t come in yet.
- Baby is in the nicu.
- Baby is not gaining weight.
- You want to cut down on pumping and or nursing.
- Traveling with breast milk is sometimes too much of a hassle.
- Baby has an intolerance to your breast milk or the dairy you consume while breastfeeding.
- There are medications you need to take that are not compatible with breastfeeding.
- Started your menstrual cycle and your milk supply has not recovered.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you may need to supplement with formula or switch to formula feeding all together.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions most of us have when it comes to introducing formula for the first time to our baby who has been exclusively fed with breast milk.
What are the differences between breast milk and formula?
There are many differences between breast milk and formula.
Breast milk is a living organism made from a mother’s blood and contains living cells to perfectly nourish the baby it feeds. Breast milk also protects the baby from illness and disease because of it’s abundance in friendly bacteria and enzymes.
Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis.” – American Academy of Pediatrics AAP
Formula is a processed food with a shelf-life. It does not contain any living cells, enzymes or immunity.
Can You Mix Breast Milk with Formula?
The answer is yes, but it is advisable not to do so. Some reasons why it is not recommended to mix breast milk with formula are:
- Wasted breast milk if baby doesn’t finish the bottle.
- Formula doesn’t stay fresh as long as breast milk and should be stored differently.
- Lessens the anti-bacterial benefits of breast milk when consumed on it’s own.
How to not Waste Breast Milk if Mixing with Formula
- Offer breast milk first to avoid wasting left over breast milk if baby refuses the taste of formula.
- Pause for a short time (10-20 min.) in between feeding breast milk and formula to give baby enough time to regain some hunger and accept the formula.
How to Supplement with Formula without Decreasing Milk Supply
Introducing formula while breastfeeding without decreasing milk supply can be a balancing act. The fear is that your breastfed baby would begin to reject your breast milk after acquiring a preference for formula.
Furthermore, it can be just as hard to get a breastfed baby used to formula and switching them back and forth can be a constant struggle.
To maintain your milk supply while supplementing with formula, I recommend increasing or establishing a breast pumping regimen. Consider pumping during every feed your baby is receiving formula.
This will keep the supply and demand market consistent.
You may also benefit from an online course by Milkology that helps breastfeeding moms protect their milk supply during these situations.
The course will show you how to balance breastfeeding, pumping, supplementing and more. If you plan to transition your on-demand breastfeeding routine at all, this resource is a must.
Because the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined breast milk is indeed the best source of nutrition for babies up to at least 6 months of age, using a formula closest to breast milk is ideal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” – American Academy of Pediatrics AAP
Which Formulas Are Closest to Breast Milk and Why?
In order to rank these formulas as to which are closest to breast milk, I looked at the ingredients to see which ones had the fewest synthetic ingredients.
I then did some research on the main ingredients and pulled some reviews left by parents who also supplemented breast milk fed babies with formula.
The European formulas hold the top spots on the list because of their superiority in quality ingredients and stringent production regulations.
Formulas made in Europe must adhere to a much stricter guidelines than those made for consumption in the U.S.
I also have personal experience with these formulas and can attest to the huge difference in quality one notices right away. My baby had no qualms about drinking it, (like she did the others) and there were no negative side affects.
I was led to try these European formulas through the recommendation of other moms who were supplementing their babies with it and also had great success.
Note: You will not find these formulas on Amazon unfortunately, but ordering though Organic Formula (links provided) is just as easy and quick!
1. Holle Stage 1 and 2 Organic Infant Milk Formula
- Suitable from birth or in addition to breast milk (stage 2: 6 months +)
- Quickly accepted when switching from other formulas
- Organically grown
- Made with no genetically modified ingredients
- No artificial chemicals or preservatives
- No artificial flavors or colors
- Chemical free agriculture and production
- Ideal for bottle feeding and preparing porridge
- Strictly adhere to EU Organic regulations and stringent international Demeter regulations
- Highest standards on animal welfare
My daughter of 7 months had no problem adjusting from breast milk to Holle stage 1. No gas or stomach ache at all 🙂 My husband is a nutritionist, so we took some time searching the market for the best formula for our baby. This is the milk that came as our top choice. I wish they sell it in retail stores other than only online ordering. Thank you so much for such a great product! – Unknown
2. Holle Goat Stage 1 and 2 Organic (Bio) Infant Milk Formula
- Suitable for use from birth
- Premium organic baby food
- Organically grown ingredients
- Goats are raised in accordance with EU organic regulations
- Contains no GMO’s
- No artificial flavors or colors
- No artificial chemicals or preservatives
- Chemical-free agriculture and production
Why goat’s milk formula and maybe, why not?
Some of the proteins in cow’s and goat’s milk are the same. Therefore, a baby with a lactose or cow milk intolerance may benefit from goat’s milk. It is also suggested that goat’s milk is more easily digestible.
Goat’s milk is not completely lactose free and not all babies will benefit from goat milk.
You should know that goat’s milk formula is not sold in the Untied States and has not been recognized as a complete source of nutrition for infants.
EFSA also concluded that there was no convincing data, either in the literature or submitted, to support the belief that the incidence of allergic reactions is lower when feeding goats’ milk based formula compared to cows’ milk based formula. EFSA published its opinion on 12 January 2006, confirming its previous view.” – wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com
3. Hipp Hypoallergenic Stage 1 Combiotic Infant Formula
This European Polish infant formula is starch free and tailored to infants who are at risk of allergies and is suitable from birth on.
- Similac Advanced Non-Gmo Infant Formula is nutritionally complete, milk-based formula for baby’s first year of life.
- It features OptiGro, an exclusive blend of DHA, Lutein and Vitamin E.
- No added growth hormones or genetically modified ingredients.
- Enhanced with MFGM which has been shown to support cognitive development similar to breast milk.
- Claims to ease fussiness, gas and crying within 24 hours.
- For babies from birth through 12 months.
- Modeled after breast milk.
- No corn syrup added.
- USDA certified organic.
The first and most important step in infant formula preparation is to follow the manufacturers directions for the formula being prepared.
Formula preparation guidelines according to the CDC:
- Wash and sanitize your hands before preparing a bottle.
- Clean and sanitize the work space.
- Bottles also need to be clean and sanitized.
- Do not use a microwave to heat prepared formula.
- Use a safe water source.
What water is safe to be mixed with formula?
You can use any type of clean water, tap or boiled. If you’re using well water and are unsure of the purity of the water source you are using, contact your Local Health Department and speak with your baby’s doctor.
Well water does need regular testing. It is also important to consider the amount of fluoride in the water.
Regularly mixing powdered or liquid concentrate formula with fluoridated water might increase your child’s risk of developing faint white lines or streaks on the teeth, called fluorosis.” – Mayo Clinic
Purified or distilled water is safe for formula preparation.
Once mixed, formula has a short life span, unlike breastmilk.
- See my post, “Pumping Questions Commonly Asked – Answered” to learn the proper feeding and storing guidelines for breast milk.
How long does prepared formula last?
- Prepared infant formula lasts two hours.
- Use prepared formula within one hour from when feeding begins.
- Unused and refrigerated formula lasts 24 hours.
Can I re-feed any left-over formula my baby doesn’t finish?
No, throw out any formula your baby does not finish. The combination of your baby’s saliva and formula can cause harmful bacterial growth.
Whatever your reason for supplementing with formula, is your own and no one is here to judge. As you read, there are many great options for breast fed babies on the formula market.
I was lucky enough to be able to give my baby breast milk exclusively for the first nine months of her life. When the day came to introduce her to formula, I was uninformed and overwhelmed.
Hopefully you’ll feel differently after reading this!