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).
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.
- Child and Youth Health Practice Manual, Queensland Government (PDF, 3.6MB)
- Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guideline: Establishing breastfeeding (PDF 401 kB)
- Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guideline Supplement: Establishing breastfeeding
(PDF 234 kB)
National guidelines and strategies
- Infant Feeding Guidelines: Summary (PDF, 825kB)
- Infant Feeding Guidelines: Information for health workers
- Australian Dietary Guidelines (Refer to section 4: Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding)
- Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (PDF, 4MB)