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Breastfeeding your baby is a rewarding experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that breast milk be your baby's sole source of nutrition for the first six months of his life. During the next six months of breastfeeding, you can introduce solids. At times, situations arise, such as a business trip out of town or the occasional night out, that may require supplementing breastfeeding with formula. You may also decide to supplement when you return to the workplace. If you know that your schedule is going to be busy and you have the luxury of time, a slow introduction to formula is easier on baby and mom.
When to Start
Allow yourself and your baby time to adjust to the formula. If you know you go back to work in three months, start the transition several weeks prior to that date. This will give you time to address any bumps along the way. Start with a small bottle of formula a day, perhaps at the feeding she enjoys the least. Continue to offer your breast for the other feedings. Every few days, substitute the formula for the breast until you have a routine that fits your schedule. If she has trouble accepting a bottle and formula from you and keeps looking for your breast, have Dad feed her with you out of the room. Make sure the formula is warmed under warm tap water and check a drop or two on the inside of your wrist to ensure it's not too hot to burn sensitive mouths.
Choosing the Formula
Although you will never find a formula close to mother's milk, choosing the right formula that agrees with your baby can make the difference between success and weeks of frustration. The three main ingredients that are most important to your baby's nutrition are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. All of these, along with the amount and ratios can be found on the formulas' labels. All of the major formula brands are similar with some minor variables that change from time to time, remarks Ask Dr. Sears. Some offer different ratios of whey to casein (milk protein.) The fat used is from vegetable sources and does not have DHA, which is needed for brain development, or cholesterol, also needed for infant growth. If you plan an using formula more than breastfeeding, you may want to discuss this with your doctor to see if supplements are needed, such as vitamin D. The carbohydrate content of formula comes from a combination of lactose and malto-dextrin, a table-sugar- like carbohydrate. When choosing, Ask Dr. Sears suggests to opt for iron-fortified formulas to reduce the possibility of iron-deficient anemia. (ref3) The best one to decide on which formula is best for baby, is baby's tummy. If he thrives on it, it must be agreeing with him.
Reasons for Supplementing
Reasons to supplement breastfeeding with formula are as numerous as there are nursing moms. Some moms' work schedules and daycare options may not be conducive to breastfeeding or using breast milk. Perhaps mom's milk supply isn't adequate for her hungry baby. As baby gets older, Mom and Dad may like a night on the town or a vacation without the kids. Mom may want to supplement with formula so Dad has an opportunity to participate in feeding time as well. Whatever your reason for supplementing with formula, it's important that you don't supplement too soon. An established milk supply is a priority to ensure baby's nutritional needs, so don't supplement until you're producing plenty of milk.
Tips to Transition
To add the occasional bottle of formula to your baby's diet, or to wean her completely, introduce one thing at a time. Start with a bottle of breast milk. Once she's used to the bottle, add the formula. If she's older than 6 months old, use a sippy cup and skip the bottle. Bottles of formula from the fridge are chilly, but don't be tempted to use a microwave to heat them to room temperature. Microwaves leave pockets of hot milk in the bottle that can burn. When you first buy a bottle and nipple, sterilize it. From there on in, simply wash with mild soapy water and rinse well to use.