Breastfed Baby Seems More Settled After Formula? 5 Things You Need To Know

Breastfed Baby Seems More Settled After Formula? 5 Things You Need To Know

“I gave her formula and she settled right to sleep.”

“We breastfed every evening and she still woke several times at night. One evening we offered her some formula and she slept a nice stretch. I think she wasn’t getting enough milk.”

New parents have a lot of concerns. A common concern is whether or not baby is getting enough milk.

In fact, one of the leading causes of breastfeeding cessation is a concern about low milk supply.

You may have heard other parents say the things above, or maybe you’ve experienced them yourself.

It can be stressful to worry about your baby’s milk intake.

If you are concerned, it is important to determine if your baby is getting enough milk based on reliable, not unreliable, signs.

Even if you know these things, being a new parent can be an exhausting and emotional time and you might still have moments of doubt.

If your baby settles easily and sleeps for a lengthy period of time after being given a bottle of formula, it can reinforce your doubts. Surely this means that your baby isn’t getting enough from your milk alone? Or does it?

Why Is My Breastfed Baby More Settled After Formula?

Why might your baby seem more settled after a bottle of formula?

#1: Formula Is Harder To Digest

Most formulas are derived from cows’ milk. Some are derived from soy milk, goats milk etc. Regardless of what formula is derived from, it is not derived from human milk and hence it is not species specific.

The fats, proteins and carbohydrates in formula are not as easily digested by babies as those in breastmilk. When a food is not easily digested it can leave you feeling fuller for longer.

For this reason, formula fed babies may not need to feed as often and may sleep longer (and deeper) stretches in between feeds. Sleep can be a wonderful thing, but are these longer stretches beneficial for young babies? Or, could they potentially be harmful?

#2: Frequent Waking Is Normal And Beneficial

It is normal for babies to wake often. It is also normal for young healthy babies to have times where they are difficult to settle to sleep and cry a lot.

When your baby is unsettled, she is more likely to have more time in close physical contact with you. Waking often ensures she gets lots of regular contact with you too.

Close physical contact between you and your baby is good for her. Human babies are born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only one quarter of an adult’s brain volume. Lots of close physical contact with your baby helps her brain develop optimally.

It seems that babies are wired to find a way to have their needs met, even the need for close physical contact. With breast milk being species specific, the way it is digested doesn’t interfere with a baby’s natural pattern and instincts.

#3: Frequent Waking May Be Important To Reduce SIDS Risk

Waking frequently and rousing more easily from sleep may also be important factors to help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Research shows that formula fed babies are at increased risk of SIDS when compared to breastfed babies. One of the reasons for this may be that formula fed babies are less easily aroused from sleep than breastfed babies at 2-3 months of age, which is within the 2-4 month peak age for SIDS.

It is important to note that while it is normal for breastfed babies to wake often to feed at night, and for breastfeeding mothers to experience more frequent night-waking than formula feeding mothers, formula feeding mothers tend to experience longer periods of wakefulness. The result is that the net outcome in terms of sleep duration is the same regardless of how a mother feeds her baby, or may even favour breastfeeding mothers.

#4: Big Meals Might Induce Sleep

Have you ever had a big feast (e.g. a Christmas dinner) and then felt like doing absolutely nothing but planting yourself on the sofa?

After we eat, our bodies need rest so that energy can be directed towards digesting the food we’ve eaten. Once digested, our bodies can metabolise nutrients to replenish that energy. The larger the meal we have, the more rest our bodies need. This effect is more noticeable if we eat foods that are more difficult to digest.

After a baby drinks formula, particularly a large volume, this may cause her to fall asleep and sleep for a lengthy period of time -not because she is ‘better-fed’ but rather because she cannot digest formula as easily.

When something cannot be digested as well, digestive upsets such as wind, bloating or constipation are more likely.

While formula fed babies may not appear as hungry as often as breastfed babies due to the slowed digestion, it doesn’t mean they get more nutrition. There is also a risk of over-feeding.

#5: More Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Regardless how a baby is fed, feeding according to need is appropriate. That is, feeding according to your baby’s feeding cues.

All babies are individuals with individual needs. As such, different babies need different volumes. Feeding a baby according to need helps ensure she gets what she needs.

On a population level, formula feeding is associated with an increased risk of obesity. Some reasons for this could include:

  • Because formula tins come with instructions about how much and how often to feed a baby, a parent may encourage their baby to finish the bottle.
  • Formula does not contain leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate food intake. Hence a baby’s self-regulation may be reduced.
  • Formula has a higher protein content which may facilitate more rapid growth.

If formula feeding, feeding your baby according to need, choosing a formula with a lower protein content and using a paced bottle feeding method can help.

Breastfeeding can be challenging. Feeling uncertain about your baby’s intake can be worrisome, especially if they feel settled after a bottle of formula. However, we know that the perceived satiation after formula is rarely due to inadequate breast milk intake.

If you have breastfeeding concerns, remember that there are many resources available to help you. For example, see a lactation consultant or call an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor. They are there to help and support you no matter what.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. Hello,
    I have asked pediatrician and obgyn about breastfeeding while being in Effexor xr 37.5 once a day. They both told me to ask lactation consultant at hospital. Would you have any info on this? Thank you

  2. Thank you so much..very interesting
    I am concerned about low milk supply.. I ‘ve been breastfeeding by baby girl for two and half months now but recently I noticed that my breasts are very soft and she spend longer time suckling and I cannot hear her swallowing, I follow up her weight every week and it was ok 200_300 gm every week but last week the weight didn’t increase.. is it really low ?? Is it normal for sometimes not to increase in weight?? I’m advised to try Lactaflow?? I need your help please.. thanx in advance

  3. Hi my son is 11 months old an he wakes up 2-3 times a night in still breast feeding him. The thing is that I what to wearn him off the breast an he won’t take formula or breast milk out of a bottle or a sippy cup. I need help because I want to go back to full time study’s an of he isn’t drinking any milk from the bottle or sippy cup. Please help.

  4. Way to shame parents who can not breast feed. You should be ashamed of yourself. I wanted to breast feed and tried everything but when my daughter lost 15% of her body weight in the first month i had no other options. So your biased bullshit mum shaming is not helpful and once again scares those mums into thinking that they ate harming their kids by formula feeding.

    Its articles like this that makes us mums who cant BF feel horrible. I hope your happy on your high horse

      1. Honestly I don’t see this as shaming… she is just expressing facts. If you can’t breastfeed then why are you reading breastfeeding articles. This is for moms(or moms to be) like me, with concerns. If everyone is so scared to say the truth about what they experienced when it came to breastfeed, then people aren’t going to be informed. She isn’t saying you love your child any less because you can’t breastfeed and she isn’t shaming anyone… let’s all have listening ears and slower fingers.
        I thought this article was very clear and if it didn’t concern me I would have MOVED ON.

    1. Sounds like you’ve had a tough journey, One angry mum.

      This article has been written for breastfeeding mothers who are told that a bottle of formula will make them sleep better or settle. Not for formula feeding parents who only have formula for their babies.

  5. FYI. We give our twins 2x small top ups a day after which they do a 3 day sleep and 5 hour (night) sleep giving mum much needed rest. Other than that they feed every 1-2 hrs and nap 40mins-1hr and growing fantastic

  6. Hi. I am breast feeding and my poor little girl has broken out in rash all over her face ears and neck. She has trapped wind and sounds like wind is passing right through her despite using infacol as directed before every feed. I feel responsible for all this discomfort especially since she also wakes every 3 hours at 8 weeks old

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