Breastfeeding can be hard, really hard. For some people the option of mixed or combination feeding can be ideal. This is combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding on a regular basis. There are pros nd cons and also risks to consider with this approach.
With some conflicting advice out there it’s hard to know what to do and how to start combination feeding. And when. I spoke to Yvonne Fairholm, who runs a breastfeeding support group, for some advice on the matter.
Why might I want to mixed feed?
“Mums often tell me they combination feed as a breast feed doesn’t fill their baby as when they are then offered a bottle they guzzle it then fall asleep. It is important here to understand the anatomy of breast feeding and a babies reflex to suck. Just because they take the bottle doesn’t necessarily mean they are starving.”
The primary reason for starting to combination feed is that registered and experienced health professionals have recommended it for your baby's weight gain. We would advise you get a second opinion if this is suggested to you as advice does vary and a qualified breastfeeding supporter will be able to offer you support in your decision at this stage. and help you to ensure you can maintain your breastfeeding supply.
It is normal for babies to suck a lot and if their weight is fine then what can feel like constant feeding is not necessarily a sign that you are low on milk. This is only a route that should be followed if advised by a professional that it's required. If you know this and you’d still like to introduce a bottle then you might be wondering how and when to do so.
“It is ideal to establish breast feeding before commencing combination feeding.” Establishing breastfeeding can be difficult so it may be advisable to wait a few weeks until introducing bottles so as not to undermine your supply. To establish a good supply your body should be providing milk 8-12 times every 24 hours for the first few weeks so this could be through breastfeeding or expressing. If your supply is well established before you commence mixed feeding then hopefully you will be able to keep up the breastfeeding part for as long as you want to. It should be noted here than many parents find it difficult to ensure they keep up their breastfeeding supply and you will benefit from an experience breastfeeding supporter.
Remember to introduce bottle feeds gradually to reduce the chances of developing mastitis. It can take 3 to 7 days for your breasts to adjust to missing one feed so perhaps try dropping one feed a week until you get to the number of breastfeeds and bottle feeds which you're aiming for.
What to use
Sometimes babies who have been breastfed can be reluctant to take a bottle but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a break. You could try getting someone else to give the first bottle feed or using a different method of feeding. “Bottles and breasts are not the only option for feeding your baby. Many parents choose to cup feed or syringe feed.”
“If using formula milk remember that all formula has to meet strict standards so expensive doesn’t mean best.” As long it’s standard first formula and not hungry baby or follow on milk they should be pretty much the same so don’t stress about which brand you use. If in doubt, just check with your health visitor.
Weighing up the Pros and Cons
Health-wise breastfeeding is best for babies and breastmilk is easier for babies to digest than formula.
However, if you would otherwise be stopping breastfeeding entirely combination feeding can still provide these benefits to some degree. The baby can still receive antibodies from breastmilk. Mixed feeding can suit many people who are not able or do not wish to keep up full time breastfeeding.
At Yummikeys we are big breastfeeding supporters but are also an inclusive community and we are covering all forms of feeding here and upcoming blogs will be:
If you need breastfeeding support or advice there are many fantastic support groups across the UK. NCT and La Leche are great places to start. We'll be adding a page of support available in the Lothians and will add a link here tonight.
By Mary Reay