Despite the fact that every mother knows that "fed is best" there is still a huge stigma surrounding formula feeding and even supplementing with formula, especially during the newborn stage. Many women feel like they've failed in their quest to breastfeed if they use formula to supplement their baby's feedings in the first week of life even though it often takes a bit of time for mom and baby to get into their breastfeeding groove.
For many mothers supplementing with formula is a necessity in that first week home with baby because often their milk supply is still low or there could be latching problems. Still, many women feel wracked with guilt if they are forced to supplement, assuming that they will be destroying their chance at a successful breastfeeding relationship with their child. The good news is a new study has been released that shows that giving a new baby a little bit of formula during their first week after birth has no impact on breastfeeding rates at six months.
The Jama Pediatrics study followed 164 newborns who were exclusively breastfed. In each case, the mothers weren't producing "copious milk" and their babies, who were between one and three days old and were experiencing newborn weight loss "at or above the 75th percentile for age." While half the mothers in the study provided their newborn with a small amount of formula after each feeding, the other half remained exclusively breastfeeding. The study showed that after six months babies in both groups were just as likely to breastfeed.
“Counseling that implies all formula is harmful would be inaccurate and may be detrimental to long-term breastfeeding success,” lead researcher Valerie Flaherman, M.D., stated.
While the study found no impact on the rates of breastfeeding at 6 months, it did state that it would need to do further research to accurately measure the impact of early formula feeding on breastfeeding at 12 months. The study shows that only 30% of those who received the formula supplements were still breastfeeding at 12 months, whereas 48% of those who were exclusively breastfed were still breastfeeding at 12 months. “It’s possible that supplementation reduced commitment, by the mother or other family members, to avoid it later in infancy,” Dr. Flaherman said.
There are so many other factors that can impact how long a woman exclusively breastfeeds, including returning to work, the desire to personally wean and share the feeding responsibility as well as lack of supply that it would be interesting to see more information on if early supplementation really has that far reached of an effect on breastfeeding.
At least this may help alleviate some of the guilt and stress many moms feel for supplementing with formula during that first week when being a new mom is the hardest.