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By Lisa Morris Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP

Lisa Morris Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP is the clinical editor for Lippincott's NursingCenter.com. Lisa has been a nurse for 15 years with experience in critical care and women’s health.

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Q: Can I feed my baby breast milk and have my husband and mother feed him formula when I'm at work? If so, how do I maintain my breast milk production?

According to a recent HealthyWomen survey of maternity and neonatal nurses, almost 20 percent of new mothers plan to supplement breastfeeding with infant formula. Others may decide to supplement later for many reasons.  For example,  they  may plan to return to work, or they may have difficulty nursing.

Infant formula is the only safe and healthy alternative to breast milk and provides the calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, and other nutrients that are essential for infant growth and development. Also, it's safe to offer breast milk at some feedings and formula at others.

Start by deciding how often you want to supplement breastfeeding with formula. Some women begin by feeding their baby formula once a day and add additional formula feedings over time. To keep your breasts from becoming engorged and sustain your milk supply, use a breast pump to express your milk for the same amount of time your baby would nurse.

Deciding to formula-feed your baby will require choosing a bottle. To ease the transition for a baby who is nursing and formula feeding, look for a bottle nipple that closely replicates the breast. There are numerous bottle options, and you may need to experiment with various sizes, materials (glass or plastic) and nipples until you find the ideal combination for you and your baby.

If you have questions about supplementation, your health care provider should be able to help with one-on-one counseling, written materials or online resources.

This resource was developed with the support of the International Formula Council.