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Supplementing Your Breast Milk

Supplementing is when, in addition to breastfeeding, you give your baby your own expressed breast milk, pasteurized human donor milk or baby formula.
You may need to supplement for medical or personal reasons. Your baby might need extra milk because you are separated from your baby, your milk supply is low or your baby is not gaining enough weight. The most important thing is feeding your baby safely, feeding your baby when they are hungry, and stopping when your baby is full. 

What to feed your baby first, as available:

  1. First choice: Your own freshly expressed or frozen breast milk.
  2. Second choice: Pasteurized human donor milk from a certified milk bank. This option is often limited due to short supply, and usually used for preterm or sick babies. 
  3. Third choice: Store-bought formula (made from cow's milk).
Supplementing, especially in the first few days, may lead to a decrease in your breast milk supply, or an end to breastfeeding before you had planned to. Plus it can be hard to restart breastfeeding after you have stopped. Discuss supplementing with your healthcare provider, a public health nurse or a lactation consultant before giving your baby anything other than your own breast milk. They can help you understand your options and decide what works best for you and your baby.

Supplementing options

Your own freshly expressed or frozen (and thawed) breast milk is the best food to feed your baby. Your breast milk changes to meet your growing baby’s needs and is full of active ingredients such as antibodies. Give as much of your own milk as you are able to provide.

If your own milk is limited or not available, pasteurized human donor milk from a certified milk bank is the next best option. Pasteurized human donor milk has active beneficial properties and is similar to your own milk. It provides your baby with antibodies to fight disease and infection. Pasteurized human donor milk is especially important if your baby is premature or ill. 

The BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank provides donor milk to babies in need.  The majority of donated milk is for premature and sick babies. You need a prescription from your doctor or midwife to receive donor milk from BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. Speak with your healthcare provider. 
Please call the Milk Bank to make an appointment before going to the hospital for donor milk. If you have extra milk you would like to donate, please read the Milk Bank donation page for instructions on how to donate.

 If you are unable to get human donor milk from a certified milk bank, store-bought infant formula (made from cow's milk) is the next option. Use only formula brands approved for sale in Canada to ensure the product meets Canadian health standards, unless otherwise recommended by your healthcare provider.

If you use infant formula to feed your baby, it is important to have the information to do so safely. 

Home-made formula

Health Canada advises against using home-made formula. Home-made formula may not provide the proper nutrients that babies need and may contain ingredients or be prepared in a manner that can result in contamination by harmful bacteria.

Read more about the potential health risks associated with homemade infant formulas.

 If you are thinking about using formula, or need to give formula:
  • Continue to give your baby as much of your breast milk as you are able. 
  • Talk to your healthcare provider or nurse to create a plan for how to maintain your breast milk supply so you are able to offer some breast milk to your baby.
Find out more about expressing your breast milk.

Giving your baby human milk from an informal donor (family member, friend) is not recommended. Milk shared informally is not tested or pasteurized, and in-home treatment of human milk (flash- heating) has not been proven to remove bacteria or viruses or make the milk safe.

Speak with your healthcare provider or a public health nurse before giving your baby milk from an informal donor.

Learn more about  informal milk-sharing.


SOURCE: Supplementing Your Breast Milk ( )
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