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Feeding the Child

Can I give my baby formula milk if I am not sure my breastmilk is enough?

Many mums worry that their breastmilk isn't enough for their baby. It's one of the most common reasons why mums give up breastfeeding, or give their babies formula milk as well as breastmilk (mixed feeding).

It's very unlikely that you won't have enough milk to feed your baby, as having a low milk supply is very rare. Most mums can easily produce enough milk for their baby, or for more than one baby, if they have twins.

If you start giving your baby formula as well as breastmilk, you may find yourself in a bit of a cycle. If your baby needs less of your breastmilk because he's formula-fed, your breasts will reduce the amount of milk they make. This is because your body produces milk on a supply-and-demand basis.

The Department of Health says that you should try to give your baby only breastmilk for his first six months. Breastfeeding offers many health benefits for your baby, including protection against infection. If your baby is formula-fed, he may be more liable to catch a tummy bug or chest infection in his first year.

Any amount of breastfeeding has a positive effect. But the longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts, and the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding also helps to protect you against breast cancer before the menopause, and ovarian cancer. It may also help you to lose weight after the birth.

Your baby is likely to be getting enough breastmilk if:

- feeding your baby is easy and pain-free for you

- your baby comes off the breast on his own

- your baby is happy for a while after feeds

- your baby has a good skin tone

- your baby has about five to eight wet nappies in 24 hours and once 14 days old is gaining weight

You can also look at this , which many health professionals use.

Remember that almost all newborns lose some of their birth weight to begin with. But within three to five days, he should start to put on weight again.

If you are having problems with breastfeeding and are tempted to give your baby formula, before you do, check that your baby is latched on well when he feeds. If you can, let your baby feed on demand, rather than trying to make him follow a feeding routine.

If you are finding it hard to get your baby to latch on well, ask at your doctor's surgery or health clinic if you can see a breastfeeding specialist. There may also be a breastfeeding drop-in centre, sometimes called a baby cafe, near you. You can also call the NHS breastfeeding helpline on 0300 100 0212 or the National Childbirth Trust helpline on 0870 444 8708.

If your doctor, midwife or health visitor is concerned that your baby is not putting on enough weight, the first step is to give your baby extra breastmilk. You can do this by expressing milk and giving it to your baby after a breastfeed, usually in a bottle. This will boost your milk supply, and you can keep doing it until your baby has learnt to latch on well.

If there is a problem with breastfeeding that can't be easily solved, you may need give your baby formula milk temporarily. But you may still be able to go back to full breastfeeding, with the help of a breastfeeding specialist.