14 May 2013

Formula may help breast-feeding for some babies

Small amounts of formula to newborns who experience significant weight loss can boost breastfeeding length.


Giving small amounts of infant formula to newborns who experience significant weight loss can increase the length of time that they are breast-fed, according to a new study.

New mothers do not immediately produce high volumes of milk and their babies can lose weight during this period, said the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

"Many mothers develop concerns about their milk supply, which is the most common reason they stop breast-feeding in the first three months," study author Dr Valerie Flaherman, an assistant professor of paediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics, said in a university news release.

"But this study suggests that giving those babies a little early formula may ease those concerns and enable them to feel confident continuing to breast-feed," added Flaherman, who also is a paediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

How the study was done

Flaherman and her colleagues looked at 40 full-term newborns between 24 and 48 hours old who had lost more than 5% of their birth weight. Some babies received early limited formula consisting of one-third of an ounce of infant formula by syringe after each breast-feeding session. The babies stopped receiving the formula when their mothers began producing adequate volumes of milk, about two to five days after birth.

The babies in the early-limited-formula group were compared to a control group of infants whose mothers tried to breast-feed only.

After one week, all the babies in both groups were still breast-feeding, but only 10% of those in the early-limited-formula group had received formula in the past 24 hours, compared with 47% of those in the control group.

After three months, 79% of the babies in the early-limited-formula group were still breast-feeding, compared with 42% of those in the control group, according to the study.

The researchers said their findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, a point also made by an expert who wasn't involved in the study.

"The results of this study are provocative and challenge conventional wisdom," Dr James Taylor, medical director for the University of Washington Medical Center's Newborn Nursery, said in the news release.

More information

The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explains how to breast-feed.

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