Should You Supplement With Formula While Breastfeeding?

by Yvette Manes

One important thing to consider before giving birth is how you plan to feed your baby. The majority of moms are encouraged to breastfeed by their healthcare professionals, friends, and pretty much every pregnancy book on the market. "Breast is best" has been a common saying for years, and for the most part, no one seems vehemently opposed to that ideology. But what if you need, or want a bit of a break from a baby or a breast pump hanging off of your chest? Should you supplement with formula while breastfeeding?

There are many reasons a mom may consider supplementing with formula. She could be having a difficult time breastfeeding, she may have a low milk supply, she might be going back to work and choose not to pump. Whatever the case, it is up to the mother to decide what is best for her body and her baby. As far as fearing that your baby will somehow be less than perfectly healthy if you supplement with formula, a study in Social Science & Medicine found that many of the health benefits attributed to breastfeeding have been overstated.

It's also important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the formula manufacturers to ensure that the products are "safe and support healthy growth in infants who consume them." The FDA would not allow a product to be sold that will harm children. Although the FDA didn't set standards for infant formula until 1980, commercial infant formula has been around since the late 1800s.

Somehow, the notion that breastfeeding is an all or nothing process is perpetuated in our society. New moms are bombarded with well-meaning advice warning them not to even think about supplementing with formula, otherwise their milk will completely dry up, their babies will refuse the breast, and their children will grow up to be sickly adults. According to Baby Center, it is perfectly safe for you to supplement your breastfed baby's diet with formula. And, because breast milk is created on a supply and demand basis, if you continue to breastfeed regularly, you should still produce the amount of milk you need according to your feedings, even if you are supplementing.

Breastfeeding and formula feeding are both healthy options for your baby. You are feeding your baby and loving your baby, and that is what matters.