Combination feeding or mixed feeding is when you combine breastmilk and formula to feed your baby. Some people may also refer to giving expressed breastmilk from a bottle for some feeds as combination feeding. Combination feeding offers a middle-ground between exclusively breastfeeding and exclusively formula feeding, giving greater flexibility to families with the added joys and benefits of breastfeeding.
It’s recommended to delay introducing bottles until breastfeeding is well-established. This is usually when your baby’s latch is good and your supply has come in. This lessens the chance that the introduction of bottles will hinder your breastfeeding journey.
Reasons why parents might choose combination feeding
- You are breastfeeding and want to introduce formula
- You are bottle feeding and want to introduce breastfeeding
- You want to supplement with formula while establishing breastfeeding
- You’re worried about your baby’s weight gain and want to measure exactly how much they’re getting
- You want to let others feed your baby
- You need to be away from your baby for extended periods of time, like returning to work
- You’re finding exclusive breastfeeding difficult
Is combination feeding good for my baby?
Your baby still gets the benefits of breastfeeding from combination feeding. Your breastmilk is packed with nutrients and antibodies specifically tailored by your body for your baby which can’t be replicated by formula. Even small amounts of breastmilk are beneficial for your baby’s development.
Will combination feeding affect my breastmilk supply?
As you start to reduce the number of feeds your baby gets from the breast, your supply will usually reduce as breastmilk is produced on a “supply and demand” basis. Meaning, if there is less demand for breastmilk, your breasts will make less.
You can combat this by expressing breastmilk. This keeps your supply up, while also giving you another option to feed your baby. You can then choose between feeding from the breast, feeding expressed breastmilk from a bottle or feeding formula from a bottle. Combination feeding is about finding a feeding schedule that suits you, your baby and your family.
How to introduce bottle feeding
Some babies will be more willing to try a bottle than others. If you have been exclusively breastfeeding from the breast for months then your baby may be slower to welcome a bottle. Here are some tips to help your little one adjust to a bottle.
- Replace one feed at a time. There’s more prep involved in feedings which don’t come directly from your breast, so you may choose to start with a daytime feed to avoid making bottles during the night. This is also helpful if your chosen formula doesn’t agree with your baby’s tummy. It can take time to find the right formula, so they might experience some digestive discomfort.
- Choose a slow flow teat at first. Bottles usually have a faster flow than your breast, so we don’t want to shock the baby with a sudden rush of milk on their first try.
- Offer your baby the bottle during a relaxed time with no pressure. You want your baby to be moderately hungry, relaxed and alert. If they are very hungry or upset they will not be as receptive to their new bottle.
- Ease them into it. You could try introducing the bottle using expressed breastmilk at first. This way, your baby is getting the taste that they’re used to, just from a different source. You could also put breast milk on the outside of the bottle teat so your baby can recognise the scent of your breastmilk and recognise that it’s feeding time.
- Ask someone else to give your baby the bottle. Your baby is more likely to refuse the bottle if they know your breast is available. Allow someone else to give them their bottle while you stay out of sight (good opportunity for some me-time!). Once your baby has had a few successful bottle feeds, you could switch halfway through a feed so your baby knows that mammy can give them a bottle too.
- It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Your baby may take one or two ounces from the bottle, then finish their feed at the breast.
Read next: All About Breastfeeding