Supplementing: Formula or Pumped Milk?

As a parent, one of the first big decisions you have to make is how to feed your little one. Infant feeding, whether breast or formula, can come with some unexpected challenges. Families who choose to exclusively breastfeed may face the additional worry of “ is my baby getting enough? ”, due to the fact that they are unable to visualize how much breastmilk the infant is taking in. Your parental concerns may also be increased by well-meaning family members or even medical professionals.

 Reasons you or your baby’s doctor may consider supplementation:

  • Infant prematurity: born before 37 weeks of gestation 
  • Low blood sugar or jaundice in the hospital 
  • Milk “coming in” delayed beyond 3-5 days 
  • Low milk supply or perceived low supply
  • Infant not transferring milk well at the breast
  • Slow infant weight gain 
  • Maternal history of breast surgery
  • Infant reflux or feeding intolerances 
  • Difficulty establishing breastfeeding 

The decision of whether to supplement your breastfeeding infant can be overwhelming. It’s important to fully discuss your concerns with the baby’s doctor and consider arranging a visit with a Lactation Consultant or counselor for a feeding assessment. Click the link to schedule an appointment with a Mama Coach today.  

Supplementing: which is better-expressed breastmilk or infant formula ???

The short answer would be expressed breastmilk is the preferred method of supplementation. There are numerous health benefits from breastfeeding. Some of the infant benefits include reduced risk of asthma & allergies, autoimmune diseases, childhood cancer, type 1 diabetes, and SIDS. Many of these benefits can be linked to improved gut health. Research has demonstrated even one bottle of formula can alter the infant’s gut bacteria. Maternal health benefits from breastfeeding are reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, breast, and ovarian cancer, along with improved child spacing and weight management.   

However …

 Relying solely on pumped breastmilk can put an excessive physical and emotional burden on some mamas. Setting the expectation of exclusively using breastmilk can be unrealistic depending on the situation. Pumping multiple times a day is hard work and can increase the stress level of an already overwhelmed mama.   


 What are your individual breastfeeding goals? Did you plan to breastfeed for the first year, or were you going to “ “try” breastfeeding out? Consider, on a scale of zero to ten, how important is exclusive breastfeeding to you? 

 A Few Questions to Ask Yourself?  

What are my choices? ( eg change nothing, schedule lactation visit, pump and offer bottles, provide expressed breastmilk and formula, etc) 

Is providing formula going to help me meet my breastfeeding goals or is it going to hinder it? 

What are the pros and cons for myself and my baby? 

Is there another option eg. donor breastmilk? 

Who are my resources? eg pediatrician, lactation consultant, Mama Coach,  WIC, family/friends, or moms groups 

How should I offer supplements: bottle, cup, or supplemental nursing system 

What can I do to increase my milk supply? 


 Formula can be a helpful and necessary tool when used appropriately. Breastfeeding may be negatively impacted when used for less than ideal reasons. 

Formula use: 

  • Changes infant’s gut bacteria leading to possible long term health consequences 
  • Alters moms milk supply ( think supply & demand)
  • Decreases duration of breastfeeding 
  • Is expensive 
  • Some infants are intolerant to formula 
  • Provides essential calories & nutrients when breastmilk volume is insufficient 
  • Offers a sense of relief for concerns parents 
  • Lets partners help out more with infant feedings 
  • Can be life-saving in rare situations 

Finding Balance 

 What is the best choice for your family is ultimately up to you. It’s not a one size fits all approach. There are potential risks and benefits to both. One of the most important things to remember is that the baby has to be fed to thrive and you should feel comfortable with your decision. 


A Mama Coach is a Registered Nurse with special training in breastfeeding/ infant feeding who can offer guidance and support during feeding challenges. These visits can be done in-person or virtually all over North America. 

Lactation Visits Entail: 

  • Review of your situation 
  •  Infant feeding assessment
  •  Discussion of ways to increase milk supply if indicated
  •  Review of how to supplement if needed
  • Create a plan with you that aligns with your goals. 

Click on this Link to schedule your appointment today

No matter what you decide, Mama Coach is here to support you, so remind yourself you got this mama! 

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