What to feed baby if no breast milk

Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding (for Parents)

Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed their baby is one of the biggest decisions expectant and new parents will make.

Healt experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. But breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.

For moms who can't breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. Formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Some mothers worry that if they don't breastfeed, they won't bond with their baby. But the truth is, loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children. And feeding — no matter how — is a great time to strengthen that bond.

The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.

All About Breastfeeding

Nursing can be a wonderful experience for both mother and baby. It provides ideal nourishment and a special bonding experience that many mothers cherish.

A number of health organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies. Breastfeeding helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions.

The AAP recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, breastfeeding is encouraged until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.

Here are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding:

Fighting infections and other conditions. Breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. During breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. This helps lower a baby's chances of getting many infections, including:

  • ear infections
  • diarrhea
  • respiratory infections
  • meningitis

Breastfeeding also may protect babies against:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies.

Nutrition and ease of digestion. Often called the "perfect food" for a human baby's digestive system, breast milk's components — lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat — are easily digested by a newborn.

As a group, breastfed infants have less difficulty with digestion than do formula-fed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

Breast milk also naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires. One exception is vitamin D — the AAP recommends that all breastfed babies begin receiving vitamin D supplements during the first 2 months and continuing until a baby consumes enough vitamin D-fortified formula or milk (after 1 year of age).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates formula companies to ensure they provide all the necessary nutrients (including vitamin D) in their formulas. Still, commercial formulas can't completely match breast milk's exact composition. Why? Because milk is a living substance made by each mother for her individual infant, a process that can't be duplicated in a factory.

Free. Breast milk doesn't cost a cent, while the cost of formula quickly adds up. And unless you're pumping breast milk and giving it to your baby, there's no need for bottles, nipples, and other supplies that can be costly. Since breastfed babies are less likely to be sick, that may mean they make fewer trips to the doctor's office, so fewer co-pays and less money are paid for prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

Different tastes. Nursing mothers usually need 300 to 500 extra calories per day, which should come from a wide variety of well-balanced foods. This introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers' breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten. By tasting the foods of their "culture," breastfed infants more easily accept solid foods.

Convenience. With no last-minute runs to the store for more formula, breast milk is always fresh and available whether you're home or out and about. And when women breastfeed, there's no need to wash bottles and nipples or warm up bottles in the middle of the night.

Smarter babies. Some studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than children who were formula fed.

"Skin-to-skin" contact. Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies. And the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant.

Beneficial for mom, too. The ability to totally nourish a baby can help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her baby. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Also, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.


Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding can be easy from the get-go for some mothers, but take a while to get used to for others. Moms and babies need plenty of patience to get used to the routine of breastfeeding.

Common concerns of new moms, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include:

Personal comfort. Initially, many moms feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with proper education, support, and practice, most moms overcome this.

Latch-on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if their nipples and/or breasts are sore, it's a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to get help from a lactation consultant or their doctor. Many times, it's just a matter of using the proper technique, but sometimes pain can mean that something else is going on, like an infection.

Time and frequency of feedings. Breastfeeding requires a big time commitment from mothers, especially in the beginning, when babies feed often. A breastfeeding schedule or the need to pump breast milk during the day can make it harder for some moms to work, run errands, or travel.

And breastfed babies do need to eat more often than babies who take formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This means mom may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more, maybe less) in the first few weeks.

Diet. Women who are breastfeeding need to be aware of what they eat and drink, since these can be passed to the baby through the breast milk. Just like during pregnancy, breastfeeding women should not eat fish that are high in mercury and should limit consumption of lower mercury fish.

If a mom drinks alcohol, a small amount can pass to the baby through breast milk. She should wait at least 2 hours after a single alcoholic drink to breastfeed to avoid passing any alcohol to the baby. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than 300 milligrams (about one to three cups of regular coffee) or less per day because it can cause problems like restlessness and irritability in some babies.

Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery. Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medicines can make breastfeeding unsafe. A woman should check with her doctor or a lactation consultant if she's unsure if she should breastfeed with a specific condition. Women should always check with the doctor about the safety of taking medicines while breastfeeding, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines.

Mothers who've had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with their milk supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, a woman should to talk to her doctor about her concerns and work with a lactation specialist.


All About Formula Feeding

Commercially prepared infant formulas are a nutritious alternative to breast milk, and even contain some vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies need to get from supplements.

Manufactured under sterile conditions, commercial formulas attempt to duplicate mother's milk using a complex combination of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins that aren't possible to create at home. So if you don't breastfeed your baby, it's important to use only commercially prepared formula and not try to make your own.

Besides medical concerns that may prevent breastfeeding, for some women, breastfeeding may be too difficult or stressful. Here are other reasons women may choose to formula feed:

Convenience. Either parent (or another caregiver) can feed the baby a bottle at any time (although this is also true for women who pump their breast milk). This allows mom to share the feeding duties and helps her partner to feel more involved in the crucial feeding process and the bonding that often comes with it.

Flexibility. Once the bottles are made, a formula-feeding mother can leave her baby with a partner or caregiver and know that her little one's feedings are taken care of. There's no need to pump or to schedule work or other obligations and activities around the baby's feeding schedule. And formula-feeding moms don't need to find a private place to nurse in public.

Time and frequency of feedings. Because formula is less digestible than breast milk, formula-fed babies usually need to eat less often than breastfed babies.

Diet. Women who opt to formula feed don't have to worry about the things they eat or drink that could affect their babies.

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Formula Feeding Challenges

As with breastfeeding, there are some challenges to consider when deciding whether to formula feed.

Lack of antibodies. None of the antibodies found in breast milk are in manufactured formula. So formula can't provide a baby with the added protection against infection and illness that breast milk does.

Can't match the complexity of breast milk. Manufactured formulas have yet to duplicate the complexity of breast milk, which changes as the baby's needs change.

Planning and organization. Unlike breast milk — which is always available, unlimited, and served at the right temperature — formula feeding your baby requires planning and organization to make sure that you have what you need when you need it. Parents must buy formula and make sure it's always on hand to avoid late-night runs to the store.

And it's important to always have the necessary supplies (like bottles and nipples) clean, easily accessible, and ready to go — otherwise, you will have a very hungry, very fussy baby to answer to. With 8-10 feedings in a 24-hour period, parents can quickly get overwhelmed if they're not prepared and organized.

Expense. Formula can be costly. Powdered formula is the least expensive, followed by concentrated, with ready-to-feed being the most expensive. And specialty formulas (such as soy and hypoallergenic) cost more — sometimes far more — than the basic formulas. During the first year of life, the cost of basic formula can run about $1,500.

Possibility of producing gas and constipation. Formula-fed babies may have more gas and firmer bowel movements than breastfed babies.

Making a Choice

Deciding how you will feed your baby can be a hard decision. You'll really only know the right choice for your family when your baby comes.

Many women decide on one method before the birth and then change their minds after their baby is born. And many women decide to breastfeed and supplement with formula because they find that is the best choice for their family and their lifestyle.

While you're weighing the pros and cons, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. These health care providers can give you more information about your options and help you make the best decision for your family.

What Should I Feed My Baby if I Can’t Find Baby Formula in Stores? (for Parents)

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

en español ¿Qué debo hacer si no puedo encontrar fórmula para bebés en las tiendas?

I’ve noticed that my supermarket is running out of baby formula, and I’ve heard that there is a nationwide shortage. My baby is too young to start solids. What should I do if I can’t find formula?
– Stella

There is indeed a national shortage of baby formula in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic created supply chain and staffing issues, and a recent recall of baby formula due to contaminated products from a key factory added to the problem.

Here are some tips on how to deal with the baby formula shortage:

  • Talk to your baby’s doctor. They might have sample cans of formula available and also can ask the manufacturer for specific types of formula. You can also call a local hospital, office of WIC (the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), or an established breast milk bank. Women’s shelters, food banks, and faith-based organizations also might be able to help. Avoid using breast milk from friends, community members, or online sources. These donations may not have been properly stored or pasteurized and can contain germs or other harmful substances.
  • Shop around. Try other stores that you may not have gone to in the past, especially smaller independent grocery stores, pharmacies, or baby supply stores. They might not run out of formula as quickly as bigger stores.
  • Order online if you can. Make sure that the websites are well-recognized companies and not auction sites or online marketplaces that can’t guarantee safe products.
  • Switch to any available formula. This should be OK for most babies unless they are on a specific type of formula for medical reasons. Store-brand formulas are less expensive. Check with your baby’s doctor if you are not sure about making a switch.
  • Connect with other parents (in person or on social media groups). They might have extra formula or ideas about where to get some.
  • Do not give your baby:
    • homemade formula. This can be dangerous and has even led to infant deaths.
    • watered-down formula to make it last longer. This is dangerous, as it reduces the amount of nutrients in each bottle. Always follow instructions on the package or recommendations from your baby’s doctor.
    • goat milk or plant-based milks (like almond, rice, coconut, or oat milks) if your baby is younger than 1 year old. These milks lack the nutrients your baby needs for growth and development.
      NOTE: Cow’s milk usually is only recommended for babies after their first birthday. In an emergency, though, babies 6 months of age and older who do not get a specific type of formula for medical reasons can drink cow's milk, but for no longer than a week and not more than 24 ounces per day. Cow’s milk does not contain enough iron for a growing baby. So, if you give your baby cow’s milk, also offer iron-containing solid foods or iron supplements. Soy milk also may be OK for a few days for babies who are close to 1 year old, as long as it is fortified with protein and calcium.
    • formula you bought overseas. Foreign products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may not be safe. For this reason, goat milk formula is not an option for babies younger than 1 year old because infant-appropriate goat milk formulas are all made overseas.
    • toddler formula. If your baby is nearing their first birthday, though, toddler formula can be OK for a few days.

If you run out of formula and can’t find any, in a pinch you can give oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand) for a couple of days. Babies older than 4 to 6 months can also get puréed (finely ground) foods. And remember that babies older than 1 year do not need to drink formula at all — most of their foods can be eaten as solids and they can drink milk or water.

More information is available online at:

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

Date reviewed: May 2022

Not enough milk for a nursing mother

The ideal food for a baby is breast milk, which contains enough enzymes, hormones and vitamins. There is no equivalent analogues to this unique product. It consists of almost 700 components, each of which plays an important role in the growth of the baby. Many of the constituents of breast milk cannot be artificially recreated. For example, in the milk formula of any brand, presented on the shelves of stores and pharmacies, contains 10 times fewer components.

The advantages of breast milk are expressed in its nutritional value, good digestibility. It contains leukocytes, various anti-infectious factors that protect the newborn from dangerous diseases. The polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in this product help the child's brain to fully develop. The indisputable advantages of breastfeeding include the possibility of forming a close emotional connection between the baby and mother.

Every woman who carries a 9-month-old baby under her heart has heard about the benefits of natural lactation. All this time she is waiting for a meeting with the baby, not doubting how she will feed him. Therefore, after the first meeting and an exciting adaptation period, the situation becomes completely unexpected when one morning the feeling of fullness disappears in the chest. Not fully understanding what is happening, the mother tries to feed the screaming baby, but for some reason he refuses to eat: he cries, takes the breast again, then quits, behaves anxiously and does not calm down.

Frequent attachment, changing breasts and feeding positions are completely ineffective. After a few days of such a struggle, the woman falls into despair and decides to stop breastfeeding. The child is bought infant formula, hoping to end this turbulent period as soon as possible. However, such drastic decisions should not be made in a hurry.

The main task of the mother is to find the strength in herself to fight for the preservation of lactation. It is important to remember that such a problem, regardless of the reasons that provoked it, in most cases can be solved with a positive outcome.

How to understand that there is a lack of milk

Put the panic on the back burner and put in a little effort to sort out the situation. If after feeding the baby cries, after a short time it again requires a breast, then it is worth being worried about his condition. However, it is important to understand that the cause of such behavior of the child is not always hunger.

Possible causes:

  • A highly developed sucking reflex, which the baby will be able to realize with close tactile contact with his mother.

  • The child is weak or unwell, which is why he refuses to eat.

  • A lactation crisis has set in - a nursing woman can encounter such a phenomenon at 1.5-2 months, and it is usually associated with the growth of the baby (more milk is required, but the female body needs some time to adjust to new conditions).

  • The psychological mood of the mother is disturbed - an important fact that should not be underestimated. It is extremely important that comfortable conditions are created for a nursing woman, excluding stressful situations. Family statements such as “You don’t have enough milk” significantly increase the chances of stopping breastfeeding.

  • A small child is incorrectly applied to the breast - the mouth is not open wide, most of the chest areola is under the baby's mouth (and should be placed above it), the mother feels constant pain during feeding (the result of an incorrectly taken posture, due to which the child's tongue does not take up space on gum or there is a problem with a short frenulum).

The easiest way to make sure you're getting enough milk is to do the "wet diaper test". To do this, you will need to remove the diaper from the crumbs for a day to calculate the amount of urination. If there are at least 8 of them, then there is no reason to worry.

Signs of lack of milk:

  • Problems with weight gain - the child's body weight increases slightly, remains unchanged or decreases.

  • A small daily number of urination - less than 8 times, concentrated urine (dark, with a strong odor).

  • Decreased stool frequency - less than 3 times a day (for a child 1.5 months old).

Even after making sure of the presence of these factors, a nursing woman should not independently decide on the completion of lactation. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor, breastfeeding consultants (if there are any in your area), moms with positive lactation experiences, and try to make some successful breastfeeding strategies a reality.

How to solve the problem of lack of milk

To stimulate lactation, lactating women are recommended:

  • Apply regularly to the breast, without a regimen, on demand - in the first six months of a baby's life, you do not need to try to withstand 2-3 hours between feedings. The principle of operation of the mammary glands is simple: the more often and more the child eats, the more milk is produced. Especially important are night feedings, which stimulate the production of the hormone oxytocin (responsible for the appearance of milk).

  • Develop a positive attitude - block bad thoughts, think only about yourself and the baby. Avoid stressful situations during which the production of oxytocin is blocked. The key to successful lactation is also a good rest - physical and emotional.

  • Eat right - this item is relevant for any person on the planet, and nursing mothers cannot be an exception. Unfortunately, the appearance of a new family member who requires maximum attention is often accompanied by problems in the nutrition of the new mother. In this situation, it is important to remember that good lactation cannot exist without good nutrition. A balanced, thoughtful diet affects not only the quality of milk, but also its quantity.

  • Use physiotherapy methods to improve lactation - a set of special physical exercises for the back muscles, massage of the chest, the area between the shoulder blades, massage of the collar zone, the use of a contrast shower, warming the legs, hands in hot water will help improve blood flow in the mammary glands (an important condition for normal lactation) .

Important! Properly organized co-sleeping allows you to make night feedings as comfortable as possible. For example, a crib can be moved to the parents' bed. As a result, the mother will be able to feed the baby without getting up. If he is sleeping, do not wake him up, but simply offer a breast - most babies can eat even in a dream.

The benefits of lactation infusions and teas for a nursing mother

Drinking enough fluids plays a big role in milk production. The category of popular methods for improving breastfeeding includes special herbal teas, for example, "LaktoMama" , manufactured by Evalar. This product is a collection of herbs grown in the ecologically clean foothills of Altai. It does not contain chemicals, pesticides or other hazardous substances.

As part of LaktoMama tea:

  • Stinging nettle has a pronounced hemostatic effect, which is especially important for the normalization of the contractile function of the uterus of a nursing mother and a significant increase in lactation, it is used to combat anemia, atherosclerosis, beriberi.

  • Fennel seeds - promote milk production, improve appetite, reduce the risk of gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract of a small child.

  • Melissa - helps to achieve an increase in milk production, shows a slight sedative effect.

  • Oregano is another component that activates lactation, the work of the gastrointestinal tract, helps to get rid of spasms, headaches, has multiple properties, including urinary, bile, diaphoretic.

  • Cumin - has a lactagon effect, also shows an antispasmodic and wind-relieving effect.

Tea "Evalar BIO LaktoMama" is presented in the form of convenient filter bags, each of which should be brewed in 200 ml of boiling water. In order for the herbs to give up their beneficial substances, the tea must be infused for 10-15 minutes. Drinking such a herbal drink is recommended twice a day - in the morning and in the evening.

Benefits of tea "Evalar BIO LactoMama":

  • antimicrobial treatment of plant materials (the "instant steam" method using a French installation) - contributes not only to disinfection, but also to the fermentation of the finished product, which significantly increases its usefulness;

  • packaging in the form of multilayer protective envelopes that preserve the healing properties, delicate taste and aroma of herbs;

  • more favorable cost in comparison with available analogues.

Important! Do not increase the number of doses more than indicated due to the risk of hyperlactation.

In conclusion

If you think you're low on milk, first check to see if you really are. One popular and easy way to test this fact is the "wet diaper test". Count the number of times your child urinates during the day. The norm for infants, depending on age, is considered to be 8 or more urination per day.

With a small amount of milk, you should not panic and make a decision to end lactation. It is recommended to tune in to the positive, consult with knowledgeable people (doctor, breastfeeding consultant, etc.) and agree to the fight for breastfeeding. With the right approach and following some recommendations, this problem will definitely be solved (provided that there are no aggravating factors, for example, a serious illness in a nursing mother or child).

If there is not enough mother's milk, it is not worth supplementing with mixtures

The Center for Public Health and Medical Prevention continues its series of publications on maternal and child health.

Today's topic is breastfeeding.

Neonatologist, head of the neonatal department of maternity hospital No. 1 Lyudmila Kosteniuk told how breastfeeding affects the development of the child and mother, when it is worth supplementing the child with adaptive mixtures, and whether they can fully replace mother's milk.

How does breastfeeding affect a child's development?

Let's start with the fact that with mother's milk the child receives all the necessary nutrients, and in the first months of life - all immune cells, antibodies. This is protection from the diseases that my mother has had, as well as protection from the vaccines she has been vaccinated with.

It is also important to understand that during breastfeeding, the child does not eat large portions due to the frequency, and subsequently increasing the volume and reducing the number of feedings. Such nutrition is more logical for the development of the child. So, the child eats as much as he needs. On the first day of life with mother's milk, a healthy flora populates in the intestines of the child.

Thanks to this, in the future he will be less susceptible to allergic and gastrointestinal diseases. When a child begins to be fed with an adaptive mixture, such flora is formed in slightly smaller quantities, respectively, the baby may be susceptible to allergic diseases and gastrointestinal diseases.

Are there formulas that have become a complete substitute for mother's milk?

It is clear that there are situations when a mother does not have enough milk or a child cannot consume mother's milk for certain reasons, then the adaptive formula becomes an alternative.

But the fact is that not a single mixture corresponds to mother's milk. It is impossible to make a purely chemical composition of milk - there is no such chemical selection.

It's just that all mixtures are made different - with accents on certain points.

Is it possible to feed the baby with mixtures in parallel with mother's milk? In what cases should this be done?

Mixtures are added when mother's milk is not enough for the child.

If the child does not receive the necessary amount of nutrition, then there may be problems with his development. But there is one point - it is important that the child really has a need for additional nutrition, and not a sucking reflex, which is realized through a bottle with a nipple.

It is best to give the mixture from a glass, jar or spoon. The child must understand that only the breast should be sucked, and everything else is additional nutrition. But if the mother has enough milk volume, then it is wrong to supplement with mixtures.

How does breastfeeding affect the mother?

Mom also gets positive emotions from breastfeeding.

When a baby suckles the breast, the mother perceives the baby as a part of herself, one whole. During breastfeeding, the child provokes contraction of the uterus after childbirth: when sucking, a reflex is triggered and the uterus contracts, and this is the physical recovery of the mother after childbirth.

Also during this process, an energy connection is established between mother and child. This connection is formed when the mother is carrying a child, and while feeding, the mother keeps and maintains this connection. In the future, when the child grows and develops, the bond between mother and child remains strong.

Can a baby be allergic to mother's milk?

Allergies can be caused by the foods that mom eats, so you need to control the process of eating. As such, there is no allergic reaction in children of the first year of life.

This is a kind of allergic reaction, the so-called toxic erythema, which can occur in children against the background of malnutrition of the mother.

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