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Supplementing Breastfeeding with Formula

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Supplementing Breastfeeding with Formula

Apr 03, 2017

Making sure your newborn gets enough nourishment in her first days and weeks can be a concern for breastfeeding mothers. If young babies aren't gaining enough weight or if mothers aren't producing enough milk, sometimes supplementing with formula is helpful. Dr. Kirsten Stoesser offers some clever tips to help new mothers supplement their breastfeeding with formula so their newborns get a healthy start.

Episode Transcript

Announcer: Health tips, medical news, research and more for a happier, healthier life. From University of Utah Health Sciences, this is The Scope.

Dr. Stoesser: Hi, my name is Kirsten Stoesser, and I am a family medicine physician. A question that a lot of new parents have is whether or not they need to supplement breastfeeding with formula. In most cases, this is not necessary but in some cases it can be helpful.

One of the times where we recommend that somebody supplement with formula is if the baby is not gaining weight appropriately, especially in those first few days to the first week. If we see that a baby has lost more than 10% of its birth weight and is not able to gain that back adequately enough and quickly enough with breastfeeding, then we will recommend to do supplementation with formula.

This doesn't mean, though, that you have to do a bottle feeding. There are actually some ingenious ways to be able to administer formula. One of my favorite ways is what's called the "Supplemental Nursing System," or the SNS system, and this involves sort of a drip line. There's a line that's taped over the mother's shoulder and then this line comes down and is taped across the breast and the nipple.

So a baby can still breastfeed and even if they're not getting much while breastfeeding, they are getting the formula that drips in and baby is still getting practice with breastfeeding so they're not losing that skill and mothers are still getting the stimulation at the breast, which helps to promote further breast milk production. Usually, when babies do the SNS system, they just need to do this for a few days and then they're able to catch up the growth and the weight that they need and are able to go back to breastfeeding.

There are different ways to supplement. Sometimes it can be because the baby's not getting enough nutrition, and sometimes it's because the mother's not producing enough milk. And so if the mother's not producing enough milk, having ongoing stimulation at the breast is important. So in addition to having the baby feed, one thing that I'll recommend to moms to do is to get a breast pump and after baby feeds to actually pump for five to ten minutes on both sides so that the breasts are getting adequate stimulation.

Another thing that's really important is for the mom to get plenty of sleep, which I know is hard, to make sure that she's eating regular meals, to drink plenty of fluids and to try to relax as much as possible. Another thing I'll recommend is that sometimes if just even one feed in the middle of the night, if somebody else can do that feeding, they can do a bottle feeding with either formula or with pumped breast milk, then that can allow mom to get a few hours more of uninterrupted sleep and sometimes that can help with breast milk production during the day because mom's not as exhausted.

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