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.

Quiz: Your Baby's First Year!

Can supplements or medications increase a low milk supply?

Most experts agree that increasing the number of feedings and receiving coaching and assistance on proper breastfeeding technique can help increase what is perceived to be a low milk supply. Some women find that using breast pumps after each feeding stimulates milk production because of the increased degrees of emptying of the breast.

Medications that are reported to increase milk production are known as galactogogues. The most common examples are dopamine receptor antagonists (such as metoclopramide [Reglan, Reglan ODT, Metozol ODT, Octamide] and domperidone). However, there have been no data to demonstrate that these drugs are more effective than interventions that focus on improving breastfeeding technique and increasing breastfeeding frequency. Most doctors do not support the use of these medications to augment milk supply.

Although a number of dietary supplements and/or herbal preparations have been claimed to stimulate milk production, including alfalfa, fenugreek, or blessed thistle, there is no scientific data to support the claims that any herbal or dietary supplement can increase milk production.

Is it possible to breastfeed while pregnant?

While breastfeeding typically is associated with a decrease in fertility, it is possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding, and breastfeeding does not afford 100% protection from pregnancy. For most women, it is safe to continue breastfeeding if they desire, provided they ensure that they are receiving adequate nutrition and fluid intake. While breast milk from a pregnant mother is still nutritionally strong, the hormonal changes of pregnancy will result in some changes in the content of the breast milk and the way the breast milk tastes.

Some women who have had premature labor in previous pregnancies may be advised to stop breastfeeding if they become pregnant. This is because the stimulation of the nipples that occurs during breastfeeding may trigger contractions of the uterus. In a woman prone to preterm labor, these weak uterine contractions might increase her risk of developing preterm labor. Both pregnancy and breastfeeding place high demands on the body in terms of nutritional support and rest. Other women may be advised to stop breastfeeding during pregnancy if their nutritional status is poor or if they are suffering from extreme fatigue due to the pregnancy. These decisions should be made with advice from the mother's doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2015

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