Supplementing breast-feeding with formula may be good for some babies in the early days of life.
Exclusive breast-feeding is widely recommended by experts, and rates of breast-feeding have risen. But so have rates of readmission for dehydration and jaundice attributable to inadequate nutrition.
Researchers studied 164 infants who exclusively breast-fed one to three days after birth but whose weight loss was greater than the 75th percentile for their age. Their mothers had not yet begun mature milk production.
Half were randomly assigned to exclusive breast-feeding. The other half got 10 milliliters of formula at the end of each breast-feeding session, which was discontinued when the mothers’ milk came in two to seven days later.
The study, in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that breast-feeding rates at one week and at one month did not differ between the two groups, and there was no significant difference between the intestinal microbiomes of the two groups of babies. Five babies in the control group and one in the formula group were rehospitalized.
The lead author, Dr. Valerie J. Flaherman, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco, said that the intervention could potentially reduce early newborn morbidity.
“Using formula should be guided by science,” she said. “I think the bias against formula is preventing its use in situations where it might be beneficial.”
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