Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of formula feeding?

For some parents, or when the baby has certain medical conditions, it is very important to know exactly how much their baby is receiving at each feeding, and formula/bottle-feeding allows exact measurement. Foods, medications, or physical conditions in the mother are no longer a concern for the baby who is receiving formula. The entire family can immediately become intimately involved in all aspects of the baby's care, including feedings, allowing the mother to get more rest. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. The disadvantages of formulas are primarily their expense, the lack of maternal infection-fighting antibodies that are in breast milk, and the fact that no formula can exactly duplicate the ideal composition of breast milk.

Can we use both forms of feedings for our baby?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first six months after birth. Furthermore, it is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired. Infants weaned before 12 months of age should not receive cow's milk feedings but should receive iron-fortified infant formula.

Supplementing breastfeeding with formula is usually discouraged, although it may be helpful in cases where the mother is not producing an adequate supply of milk or the baby is not able to breastfeed well.

Lactation aids are also available as an option to avoid using a bottle when supplementation is necessary.

Is there any special preparation required for breastfeeding?

Education about the benefits and practice of breastfeeding are keys to optimal preparation. Your local hospital may offer breastfeeding classes as part of the childbirth class, or you can join your local La Leche League or other breastfeeding support group. These classes can put you in touch with a lactation specialist who may later be your personal breastfeeding consultant. These classes can also help you to learn proper positioning and latch-on techniques.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, it is not necessary to stimulate or prepare the nipples in advance for breastfeeding. Moreover, some techniques of stimulating the nipples may actually be harmful.

No specific physical preparation is necessary for optimal breastfeeding, although some doctors may want to know about things like inverted nipples or previous breast surgery even before the baby is born. General good health measures and adequate hydration are helpful measures. Most doctors recommend continuing basic prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

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