Skip links and keyboard navigation

When breastfeeding doesn't work out

Given the significant health benefits for both baby and mother, all health professionals have a responsibility to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. However, if parents are unable to exclusively breastfeed, health professionals should support parents and provide non-biased, evidence-based information about formula feeding.

In some circumstances it may be possible for a mother to mix feed her infant (combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding).

See: Breastfeeding problems

Support and advice for families unable to breastfeed

It is normal for mothers to experience feelings of grief or loss if they are unable to breastfeed. A mother’s informed decision not to breastfeed should be respected and support provided.

For parents or carers who are unable to breastfeed, or do so only partially:

  • Affirm the value of breastfeeding for whatever length of time the baby was breastfed. Even one feed per day is of value.
  • Acknowledge any grief/loss feelings.
  • Let the parents or carers know that maintaining a close relationship with their baby is most important – and express confidence in their ability to continue to give their baby their best.
  • Advise that a suitable infant formula should be used until the infant is 12 months of age.
  • At around 12 months of age, pasteurised full cream cow’s milk may be introduced in a cup. Toddler milks are not required for healthy toddlers.

Discuss the importance of following the formula’s preparation instructions, and the hazards of improper formula preparation and storage.

More information

Queensland guidelines

National guidelines and strategies

Last updated: 12 July 2016

Resources for parents, families and carers

Professional development