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Is it OK to give my baby breast milk and formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, the AAP encourages breastfeeding until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing. The WHO recommends that babies be breastfed for at least 2 years or longer.

Experts know that breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. In some instances, breastfeeding (or exclusive breastfeeding) may not be possible or an option. The decision to breastfeed and/or formula feed should be based on comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical considerations.

Breast milk is all that is needed for about 6 months, at which time complementary foods are introduced. Most babies can exclusively breastfeed without the need for any formula. A mom who cannot provide all the breast milk her baby needs might be able to meet with a lactation consultant for guidance to increase her supply.

Babies who need supplementation may do well with a supplemental nursing system in which pumped milk or formula goes through a small tube that attaches to the mother's nipple, or can be temporarily fed the pumped milk or formula by bottle.

Some experts feel that giving bottles too early can create "nipple confusion," leading a baby to decide that the bottle is a quicker, better option than the breast. To avoid this, be sure that your little one has gotten used to and is good at breastfeeding before you introduce a bottle. Lactation professionals recommend waiting until a baby is about 3 weeks old before offering artificial nipples of any kind (including pacifiers).

It's important to remember that your baby's health and happiness is, in large part, determined by what works for you as a family. So if you need to supplement, your baby will be fine and healthy, especially if it creates less stress for you.

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