We know that breastfeeding has many advantages for both mother and baby – and that WHO Guidelines recommend babies be exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. However, we also know that exclusively breastfeeding our infants is not always possible. Where this is the case, mixed feeding can be a good option for mothers who want to breastfeed but will be returning to work, are separated from their baby, or find breastfeeding difficult.
What is mixed feeding?
Mixed feeding, also known as combination feeding, is when both breast milk and formula are fed to babies. It is a flexible approach that offers numerous benefits for both mothers and infants and can provide mums with some flexibility to be able to keep breastfeeding longer.
In some cases, mixed feeding might be recommended if doctors or midwives feel the baby is not getting enough nutrients from breastmilk alone. This might occur if the baby is underweight, was born prematurely or is ill.
What are the benefits of newborn mixed feeding?
One of the biggest advantages of mixed feeding is the flexibility it provides. It allows mothers to supplement breast milk with formula when needed, ensuring that their babies receive adequate nutrition even when breastfeeding may not be possible or convenient. For instance, when a mother needs to be away from her baby for an extended period or when her milk supply is insufficient, formula can step in to provide the necessary nutrients.
Another benefit of mixed feeding is that it enables other family members to participate in the feeding process. This can help fathers, grandparents, or other caregivers develop a strong bond with the baby, as they too can participate in feeding responsibilities. Additionally, mixed feeding may offer more opportunities for mothers to take breaks, rest, or address their own needs, as they are not solely responsible for providing all the nutrition.
Mixed bottle and breastfeeding: Things to consider
- Mixed feeding can interfere with breastfeeding by decreasing supply or the baby might refuse the nipple after taking a bottle. Baby’s generally have to work harder at the breast to get the milk out, and the bottle is much easier and quicker.
- Maintaining breastfeeding while introducing formula can be facilitated by expressing breast milk to maintain supply and prevent engorgement. Regularly pumping or expressing milk helps stimulate the breasts and ensures a steady milk production.
- Mixed feeding might seem like an easier option, but remember that with formula feeding comes sterilising bottles, boiling and cooling water, mixing up the formula and the cost of buying it.
There are definitely pros and cons to mixed feeding but it can be a great way to prolong your breastfeeding journey if you are not yet ready to give it up completely.
How do I start mixing breastfeeding and bottle feeding?
When introducing formula while still breastfeeding, it is important to take a gradual approach. Begin by offering a small amount of formula after a breastfeeding session, allowing the baby to adjust to the taste and consistency. Be sure to choose an appropriate formula that is suitable for the baby’s age and meets their nutritional needs.
As the baby becomes accustomed to the taste of formula, gradually increase the amount of formula offered during each feeding. This can be done by replacing one breastfeeding session with a bottle of formula, initially offering it at a time when the baby is least interested in breastfeeding. Over time, additional breastfeeding sessions can be substituted with formula until the desired balance is achieved.
During the transition, it is important to closely monitor the baby’s reaction and adjust accordingly. Some babies may experience temporary digestive issues or changes in stool consistency when introducing formula. However, these are typically transient and should resolve as the baby’s system adapts.