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Risks from Supplementing with Formula

We understand that you are concerned that your baby may not be getting enough breast milk. You may be concerned that your baby needs formula for another reason. Before you give your baby formula, we would like to share some of the risks of supplementing with formula if there is no medical reason for doing so.

Some studies suggest that just one formula feeding can change a baby’s normal intestinal bacteria. This could increase a baby’s risk of infection in the digestive tract. It could also increase their risk for immune problems later in life.
Infants who receive formula feedings are also at a higher risk for these illnesses:

  • Acute otitis media (ear infections).
  • Asthma (a condition of the lungs that causes problems with breathing).
  • Diabetes – type 1 and 2 (a problem in controlling the body’s sugar levels).
  • Eczema (an itchy condition of the skin).
  • Lower respiratory tract (lung) infections (including increased risk of admission to the hospital).
  • Obesity (being overweight).

Other risks of formula feeding

  • Formula is harder to digest for a new baby. It stays in the stomach longer than breast milk, which may cause your baby to feed less often and could cause a decrease in your milk production.
  • Supplementing with formula, especially from a bottle, may change your baby’s suck pattern at the breast. Latching your baby to the breast may be more difficult after your baby is fed with a firmer bottle nipple or feeds with the faster flow from a bottle.

Babies who drink only their mother's breast milk receive the most health benefits, including less risk of asthma, diabetes, ear infections, eczema, obesity and respiratory tract infections. Breastfeeding also lowers an infant's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and childhood leukemia (a cancer of the blood).

Please ask to speak to your baby's nurse, lactation consultant, or medical provider if you have any questions. We are here to help you make the best decision for you and your new baby.

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