Combining breast and bottle feeding (or mix feeding your baby as it is commonly known) is something that many Mums consider. If you are thinking about combining breast and bottle feeding, you should first ensure that it will suit you, your baby and your personal circumstances and is not because of a myth you have heard from a friend of a friend. This complete guide to mix feeding will help you to reach an informed decision about combining breast and bottle feeding.
Can I combine breast and bottle feeding?
It is possible to combine breast and bottle feeding. You can do this in one of three ways:
- By giving a breastfed baby a bottle of expressed breast milk
- By giving a breastfed baby a bottle of infant formula milk
- And finally, by breastfeeding your bottle fed baby
Why mix feed?
The most popular reasons for choosing to combine breast and bottle feeding are outlined below with an explanation of how this could affect you and your baby:
- Not producing enough breast milk: If you feel you are not producing enough breast milk then you do not need to give up, try talking to a breastfeeding counsellor or health professional. You can contact the government funded breastfeeding line on 0300 100 0212.
- Wanting others to be able to feed your baby: Sharing the task of feeding your baby is one that will appeal to many as it is a wonderful thing to be able to do. However, if this is the sole reason for wanting to combine breast and bottle feeding then you should consider how other family members can help out and bond with your baby in other ways. Combining breast and bottle feeds may cause problems with your milk supply. Other ways for Fathers or other family members to bond with your baby can include reading books, singing, changing nappies, bathing and massaging her.
- It will help my baby to sleep through the night: It has not been proven that giving a baby a formula milk bottle at night will help her to sleep longer. It can be very tempting in those early days, when she is keeping you up all hours of the night, but night time feeds are just as important to Mums as they are to babies; they tell your body to keep producing milk, especially in the early weeks. Try to get as much help as you can during the day so that you can rest when your baby sleeps. After a few weeks she will soon be waking less frequently for her feeds.
Will I produce less milk?
You will produce less milk if you combine breastfeeding and formula milk feeding. This is the case whether you give additional bottle feeds in between regular breast feeds or if you give an additional feed in the form of a bottled formula immediately following a breast feed.
What should I be aware of?
If you are thinking of mix feeding your baby, you should be aware of the following advice before you do so and only choose this feeding option if you feel it is the right thing for you, your baby and your personal circumstances:
- Your own breast milk production will decrease
- Some babies find it difficult to breastfeed after being bottle fed (whilst some have no trouble adapting at all).
- Giving any amount of formula milk reduces your baby’s protection against illness. However, if you are mix feeding then any amount of breast milk will be beneficial for his health.
What is the best way to do it?
If you have decided that combining breast and bottle is the right thing for you and your baby then you should consider the following recommendations to help you, your body and your baby to adapt to the changes:
- Do it gradually: Your body will need time to adapt and will start to produce less milk.
- Persevere: If your baby is finding it hard but you are sure this is what you want to do then persevere with it. It may take your baby some time to get used to it as breastfeeding and bottle feeding require different techniques. Keep trying, but never force feed your baby.
- Get somebody else to do the first few feeds: Your baby may be able to smell your breast milk whilst you are trying to bottle feed him. It may help if somebody else gives the first few bottle feeds.
- Do it at the right time of day: If your baby is tired or hungry then you will probably find it harder to get him to accept the bottle at first. When introducing your baby to a bottle for the first time, do so at a time when he is happy and relaxed.
- Plan in advance and give your baby time: If you have decided to combine breast and bottle feeding because your baby is entering a childcare environment/ you can not be there to breastfeed on demand, introduce the bottle to your baby a few weeks before this date so that he has time to adapt and time to get used to it.
What is the best age to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby?
If you have decided to mix breast feeding with bottle feeding, you should do so after the newborn stage. This gives you and your baby a chance to get used to breastfeeding first.
What additional equipment will I need if combining breast and bottle feeding?
For bottle fed babies I recommend you have the following equipment in your house and ready to use before your baby is born:
- 6x bottles
- 6x new born teats
- Bottle brush
- Steriliser – see our steriliser guide
- Thermal flask
- 3-5 cartons of ready made formula milk
- Storage container for transporting small amounts of infant milk powder
- Plenty of bibs
- You should adjust these quantities depending on how often you are planning to bottle feed your baby. You may also want to consider a breast pump if you are planning on expressing.
Can I re-start breastfeeding after stopping?
If you have been mix feeding your baby or have even stopped breast feeding all together and want to restart, it is possible. You should discuss with your midwife/ health visitor/ breastfeeding counsellor ways in which you can reduce your baby’s bottle feeds. You could
also try the following:
- Skin to skin contact: Cuddle and hold your baby closely as much as possible. This will give your baby
the time and opportunity for breastfeeding to happen more easily.
- Offer both breasts: Even if your baby doesn’t seem interested in the second breast you should always immediately offer it to your baby. It doesn’t matter if she is not interested or doesn’t feed for very long. It will also help to boost your milk supply if you feed your baby off of this breast first next time.
- Decrease the bottles slowly: When you start producing more milk you should gradually start decreasing the amount of bottles your baby has. It may help to do this one bottle at a time.
- Continue expressing: If you have been expressing most of your baby’s feeds rather than breastfeeding then you should continue to do so during the changeover period. This will help to keep your milk supply high.
Do you or did you combine breast and bottle feeding? Did you have any difficulties? Would you recommend it? Your comments will add value to this page so please let me know your views and experiences.