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Breastfeed If You Can, But If You Can’t, What About Infant Formula?

During my medical training, I thought breastfeeding was as simple as holding your baby up to your breast and baby would naturally just feed.  I didn’t realize how stressful breastfeeding could be until I became a mother. I struggled with breastfeeding my daughter Madi and supplemented with formula for the first few weeks. I felt guilty for supplementing even though I shouldn’t have. 

Multiple organizations including the American Academy of Family Physicians,and World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months and to continue upon the addition of solid foods thereafter. It is also well established that breastfeeding can support infant nutrition, gut function. 

However, If You Are Unable To Breastfeed Or Struggling With Breastfeeding, What About Formula?

Infant formula is a safe and reliable option to feed your baby that you should not feel ashamed about!

I try to support the idea that women should “breastfeed if you can.”   For many women, breastfeeding may not an option (and there are many reasons why this might be!).  But supplementing or feeding with formula is also safe option that I entirely support and emphasize that a woman should not feel guilt or shame if they are having difficulty breastfeeding. 

Infant formula is manufactured to be nutritionally complete with similar fat, protein, and carbohydrates that breast milk contains.  I always emphasize to my patients to breastfeed if you can, reach out for support if you need it, but know that infant formula is alternate source of complete nutrition for babies.  

This post was co-authored by Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.

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