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Also known as partial or combination feeding, mixed feeding is when a bottle of formula or expressed breast milk is used to feed a baby alongside breastfeeding.
If you're looking to learn more about mixed feeding, we're here to help. This guide covers everything you need to know before getting started.
Mixed feeding is when parents both bottle-feed and directly breastfeed their baby. With bottle feeding as part of your mixed feeding journey, you can use either expressed breast milk or formula. Some parents choose to mix feed their little one because they're experiencing issues with breastfeeding or have a low breast milk supply.
Remember that every parent and baby are different, and so is every baby's feeding journey. So, you should always choose what works best for you and your baby.
There are many different approaches to mixed feeding, including:
Combination feeding offers lots of parents flexibility and gives other people besides mum the chance to feed the baby using a bottle.
Some of the benefits of combination feeding include:
Before you begin combination feeding, consider the fact that bringing a bottle into the mix can sometimes affect the amount of breast milk you produce. Also, some babies might struggle to latch on or breastfeed because they need to use a different sucking action when feeding from a bottle.
Don't worry too much though. If you start bottle feeding your baby when they're a little older, you're both comfortable with breastfeeding and continue to breastfeed and express using a pump frequently, your breast milk supply shouldn't be impacted.
If you're concerned that you have a low breast milk supply, it may help to seek help from a lactation expert before you start mixed feeding.
The WHO and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and you should you should speak to your health visitor before you begin combi feeding.
It's recommended that parents wait until their baby is comfortable with breastfeeding before bringing a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula into the mix.
It can help for babies to be exclusively breastfed for the first six to eight weeks to help establish a good latch and a great routine. After this time, you can think about introducing a bottle if you want.
When you first introduce a bottle:
Mixed feeding may come easy to some but may be a bit more of a challenge for others. Let's run through how to mix feed with either expressed breast milk or formula.
Parents often find that when they express breast milk in the morning, they're able to collect more in a shorter amount of time. But it's also worth noting that expressing at night helps to maintain your long-term milk supply, so try to do both if you can.
It's also important that you carry on breastfeeding or expressing regularly from each boob. If you don't, there's a chance that your boobs can become painful and engorged.
Before introducing formula feeds into your baby's routine, you should speak to your health visitor.
If you'd like to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding, it's recommended that you introduce your little one to formula gradually. Not only does this give time for your body to reduce the volume of breast milk it produces, but it also allows your little one's digestive system plenty of time to adjust.
If you're introducing formula feeds because you're going back to work, it can help to start combination feeding a few weeks in advance. Establishing a good combination feeding schedule can help you get into the swing of your new routine.
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand process, so it's important to remember that the more formula you feed a baby, the less breast milk your body will create. Combination feeding using formula can reduce the quantity of breast milk you make, so you should carry on breastfeeding your little one and expressing using a pump regularly if you want to keep your supply going.
Before you get started, you should make sure you have all the feeding equipment you'll need, including:
Health experts recommend feeding babies exclusively with breast milk for around six months. However, any amount of breast milk is beneficial and it's ok to supplement it with formula if that's what works best for you and your little one.
Yes, if you follow safe preparation guidelines, you can give your baby a mix of breast milk and formula in the same bottle.
If you decide to do so, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly when preparing the formula, before adding your expressed breast milk. When mixing formula, never substitute water for your breast milk.
If you're struggling to begin combination feeding, it can help to ask your midwife or health visitor about the best bottle position and breastfeeding attachment methods. These can help ensure your baby doesn't get confused between your nipple and the bottle's teat.
Yes, if you still have a good breast milk supply, it's often possible to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. If you decide to do this, try to make the change gradually by offering your breast first and reducing the formula you give your baby.
The more you express, the more you'll make. So, continuing to pump and having plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your little one will help to boost your milk supply and encourage them to go back to only breastfeeding.
If you're struggling, don't be afraid to reach out. You can ask your midwife, health visitor or a local breastfeeding support group or lactation consultant for help and advice.
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