Congratulations for choosing to breastfeed your baby!

It truly is Mom’s Special Gift to her infant—protecting babies from illnesses and giving them the best nutrition.

It is best to only give breast milk. This is called “exclusive breastfeeding.” But some moms are told to also give infant formula to their babies when they are breastfeeding. It can be confusing when you get different advice. We hope this fact sheet will help you.

Below are several Questions and Answers that you may have. 

Mother holding infant with father 

Q. Why should I exclusively breastfeed my newborn?

A. To establish your milk supply. Your baby needs to learn how to suckle, which helps you make more milk. Your first milk is colostrum. It contains lots of protein, vitamins, minerals and fat, but little lactose (milk sugar) or water. As your baby continues to suckle, your milk volume increases.

Q.What if the doctor or nurse tells me I should give my baby a bottle?

A. Ask why! There are only a few medical reasons for giving a newborn breastfeeding baby infant formula. Ask the doctor or nurse if your baby has one of the listed conditions. If so, your baby may require supplementing breast milk with infant formula for a brief time.

  • Diagnosed low blood sugar (hypoglycemic)
  • Diagnosed jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia)
  • Confirmed diagnosis of galactosemia (baby cannot digest lactose), or other rare diseases

Q. If my baby does need a bottle of infant formula, do I continue giving the formula?

A. Not usually, unless your baby has a rare disease.

Q. Why shouldn’t I give both breast milk and infant formula?

A. There are three important reasons.

  1. Giving your newborn even one bottle of infant formula can decrease breast milk’s protection of your newborn’s intestines... the more infant formula, the less protection. Although protection does return when you start exclusive breastfeeding again, it takes several days for the protective effects to begin.
  2. Your milk production is decreased with every bottle of infant formula. The more your baby receives formula, the less often your baby nurses. Your milk supply depends on frequent sucking by your newborn. Even a breast pump will not work as well as your baby.
  3. A newborn fed from a bottle (whether formula or breast milk) can easily develop an incorrect or weak suck or begin to prefer the artificial nipple. Breastfeeding is hard work for your baby. Learning how to latch on and suck from your nipple takes time for many newborns. The more often your baby sucks from an artificial nipple, the less your baby learns, the weaker or more confused your baby becomes, and the higher the chances are that your milk supply will not come in. Eventually your baby gives up at the breast and refuses to nurse.

Q. If my newborn got a bottle or two of infant formula, can I just stop giving it?

A. Yes!

Q. What might happen if I just stop giving my newborn a bottle?

A. You will need to nurse your newborn frequently and watch for good latch-on. If your baby only received one bottle, there is generally no problem. But if your baby has received several bottles, latch-on might be a bit frustrating for both of you. You may need help in getting back to exclusive breastfeeding. Place your baby skin-to-skin on your chest and let your baby find your nipple. Don’t give up—call for help. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will reach your breastfeeding goal.

Q. What about giving bottles if I have to go back to work or school?

A. Wait at least three weeks before introducing a bottle. It generally takes three weeks for a full milk supply to become established. After this time, your infant will be able to adjust to taking expressed breast milk from a bottle.

Q. How do I introduce a bottle to a breastfeeding baby?

A. First, you will need to have a supply of expressed breast milk. Learn correct expression, storage and handling of breast milk.

Then, have someone else give your baby the bottle. If you try to give the bottle, it is likely that your baby will not take it. You even may have to leave the room. When you are with your baby, put your baby to the breast. Leave bottle feeding to others when you are away from your baby.

Q. What if my baby won’t take the bottle, but I have to leave?

A. Learn how to give expressed breast milk from a feeding cup. This method must be done slowly and safely or your baby can choke. Talk to your health care provider or a lactation specialist about how to safely use a special cup.

Q. Where can I get help or more information?

A. Below is a short list of available resources in southern Nevada as well as some Internet sites that list sources available in other areas.

  • Mom’s Special Gift: 702- 257-5583
  • Family Resource Centers (Check the phone book or Internet for your closest location.)
  • WIC Clinics (Check the phone book or Internet for closest location.)
  • Private lactation consultants and educators

Mother holding infant Infant close to mother

Local/National/Web Resources:


  • Hanson LA. Immunobiology of Human Milk. Pharmasoft Publishing. Amarillo, TX. 2004. La Leche League International. The Breastfeeding Answer Book. Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock. March 2012 Update.
  • Mannel R, Martens PJ, Walker M. Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice. 2008. Jones and Barlett, Publishers. Sudbury, MA.
  • Mom's Special Gift is partially funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact 800-992-0900.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2013, For New Breastfeeding Mothers: What You Need to Know About Supplementing With Infant Formula, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-13-16

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Also of Interest:

For the Health Professional: Infant Formula IS NOT the Same as Breast Milk
This fact sheet presents a comprehensive (but not complete) list of human milk components to help show the great differences between infant formula and human milk components.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-13-17
Kangaroo Mother Care Within the First Hour After Birth
This fact sheet contains several questions and answers that a mother could have when their infant is born.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-013-18
Safe Handling of Expressed Breast Milk
This fact sheet provides extensive information on handling safely expressed break milk. Learn more about the guidelines for storing and transporting breast milk, thawing, reheating, and feeding.
Sigman-Grant, M. and Tang M. 2003, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-03-19
For the Health Professional: Birthing Practices Affect Breastfeeding Outcomes
This fact sheet briefly describes the impact of selected common routines practiced during labor and following birth that may influence breastfeeding outcomes.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-13-19
Mom’s Special Gift
This fact sheet contains questions and answers regarding when one can breastfeed and the benefits of breastfeeding for babies.
Tang, M. and Sigman-Grant, M. 2003, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-03-15