If Breastfeeding is Not Successful

If your baby is not able to latch on well in the first few days, it is very important to pump eight times each day until your baby is able to nurse. For many reasons, some babies get a slow or late start and still go on to breastfeed effectively — but only if your production is good.

If your baby is unable to nurse from the first day, ask for help and begin to pump, ideally with an electric pump. Do not worry if you get nothing in the first couple of days with pumping. You are encouraging your milk supply for the future.


There are medical reasons babies’ diets need to be supplemented. Perhaps you have a small (less than six pounds) or preterm baby, who is too small to stimulate your milk supply and needs more calories before your milk comes in. Perhaps your baby has low blood sugar. Perhaps you are separated from your baby. 

In the case of the small or preterm baby, you and your baby’s doctor may want to supplement the baby after breastfeeding to increase his calories. The goal is to give your baby the opportunity to learn to breastfeed while providing extra calories from expressed milk or formula. You may also decide to pump after every breastfeeding (eight times a day). The purpose is to provide extra stimulation to your breasts, so your milk supply will be generous enough for a small baby to feed easily exclusively at the breast, once your milk “comes in,” around the third day. The sooner you begin pumping, and the more frequently you pump, the better.

The average, healthy term baby without a medical problem should not need supplementation. If there are reasons that make you and your baby’s doctor think formula supplementation is appropriate, consider these four points:

  1. Offer the smallest amount needed to settle your baby, usually less than an ounce.
  2. Offering it by spoon, medicine cup, syringe or tube, rather than bottle, may be less likely to interfere with his
    learning to breastfeed.
  3. Choose a low-allergenic formula, if you have a strong family history of allergy.
  4. Pump at least eight times a day, to make up for the stimulation your baby would otherwise be giving
    with nursing.


This material was developed by Jane Morton, MD and produced for educational purposes only.  Reproduction for commercial purposes is prohibited.  Utilization and copying of the materials to improve care of pregnant women and their newborns is encouraged with proper citation of source.

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