Breast milk provides nourishment and nutrients to newborns that formula can't duplicate. Newborns who are breastfed have fewer ear and upper respiratory infections and are less likely to be obese as they grow older. There may come a time, however, when supplementing breastfeeding may be necessary, such as when an infant is not gaining weight or when the mother or infant is severely ill.
If breastfeeding must be supplemented, a variety of containers may be used. La Leche League International suggests trying a spoon or cup for newborns. Instead of sucking, infants use a lapping technique. You may want to delay using a bottle until your newborn is comfortable feeding from your breast.
Choosing a Supplement
Using expressed or pumped breast milk is the ideal choice for supplementing breastfeeding. Breast milk can be kept refrigerated or frozen. If you choose to supplement with formula, choose one that is DHA-enriched. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is necessary for brain development and that improves your baby's learning capabilities as he grows older, according to a study in the journal "Pharmacological Research." One concern about formula is that it contains no cholesterol. Formula's lack of basic fats that breast milk supplies may predispose your infant to heart and central nervous system conditions as an adult, according to the website Ask Dr. Sears.
How to Supplement
While a newborn may not accept an alternative method of feeding from her mother, she might welcome a supplementary feeding from her father. If the purpose of the supplement is to provide a night out for you and your spouse, you might enlist the help of a grandma or a babysitter.
Supplementing breastfeeding early on can affect your newborn's willingness to continue breastfeeding. "When supplementation occurs very early, very often and replaces feedings before lactation is well established," notes La Leche League International, "it can result in a much shorter breastfeeding experience than the mother planned." Although at times it's unavoidable, early supplementation can lead to less frequent breastfeeding. Wait until lactation is fully established and your baby is comfortable at the breast before supplementing, the organization advises.