Mythbusters: Should I supplement with formula before my breastmilk comes in?

It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed by the many opinions (often unsolicited) from loved ones, friends, acquaintances about how to take care of your baby. Many of these opinions, although well-meaning, are incorrect. Often they are based on that person’s personal experience with their babies. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that YOU are the expert on your baby! No one knows your body, and your baby better than you.


There is no (or not enough) milk during the first 3 or 4 days after birth so you should supplement with formula until your milk “comes in.”

Myth Buster:


Your perfect first milk, colostrum, is already “in” when your baby is born. You have been producing colostrum since you were about 17 weeks pregnant. With a good, deep latch, your baby will get plenty of milk and you do not need to supplement with formula.

The key to plenty of milk is frequent feedings with a correct latch. (During the first 2 weeks of life, your baby may breastfeed as often as 12-16 times each 24 hours!)

Note: Anyone who suggests you pump your milk to know how much colostrum there is, does not understand breastfeeding, and should be politely ignored. Once the mother’s milk is abundant, a baby can latch on poorly and still may get plenty of milk.

Why not supplement with formula, “just in case”?

When breastfeeding is going well, water or formula supplements are not needed

Early supplements are not only unnecessary, but they can also contribute to health problems in mother and baby and interfere with breastfeeding.

Supplements interfere with the establishment of a mother’s milk supply

Milk production is dependent upon how often, and how effectively the baby nurses. If the baby is supplemented, he will go longer between nursings and take less milk at the breast, possibly developing a less effective sucking pattern and delaying the increase in his mother’s milk supply.

When given with an artificial nipple, supplements have been associated with breastfeeding problems, such as incorrect sucking technique and breast refusal.

Supplements contribute to engorgement

Deciding to supplement with formula decreases the amount of time baby spends breastfeeding. More time spent nursing has been associated with decreased engorgement.

Early supplementation is strongly correlated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding

Which may be caused by the factors listed above as well as by the unspoken, incorrect message the mother receives when her baby is supplemented – that her milk is not enough for her baby. This may lead her to continue supplementing after the early days.

Did You Know?

Your newborn baby’s stomach has a capacity of 7-14cc (about the size of a cherry) during the first 24 hours of life! The average newborn drinks between 30 and 45cc of colostrum from the mother’s breasts during those first 24 hours.


Newman, J., 2015

Riordan, J., “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation”, May 2004, Jones & Bartlett Publishers, Inc. Edition Number: 2 p100

Morbacher, N. Stock, Julie “The Breastfeeding Answer Book”, La Leche League International Schaumburg, IL, 2002 , pp 29-30

Have a visit with a Lactation Consultant from your mobile, tablet, or computer. Click HERE to begin!

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