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If you're looking to learn more about combination feeding, we’re here to help. Our handy guide will cover everything you need to know before getting started with combination feeding.

Combination Feeding: Breast and Bottle Feeding

Also known as partial or mixed feeding, combination 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 combination feeding, we’re here to help. This guide covers everything you need to know before getting started with combination feeding.

What is combination feeding?

Combination feeding is when parents both bottle-feed and directly breastfeed their baby. With bottle feeding as part of your combination feeding journey, you can use either expressed breast milk or formula.

Some parents choose to combination 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 infant’s feeding journey. So, you should always choose what works best for you and your baby.

What you’ll need to combination feed

Before you get started, you should make sure you have all the feeding equipment you’ll need, this can include things like baby formula, a breast pump and breast milk storage pouches, bottles, extra teats in a range of flow rates, sterilisers, and bibs.

When to start combination 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.

Guidelines suggest that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six to eight weeks to help you 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…

  • Make sure that your baby is happy, relaxed, and not too hungry.
  • Ask someone else to give them the bottle. Your baby might not feed from a bottle at first if they can sense that your breasts (and breast milk) are close by!
  • Try different feeding positions.
  • Use a bottle with a breast-like teat.
  • Stay patient and calm. It's normal for a baby to not accept a bottle right away.

You can find more bottle feeding tips here.

How to start combination feeding

If you’re unsure about how to begin combination feeding, you should speak to your health visitor for support and advice before starting combination feeding.

How to combination feed with a bottle and expressed breast milk

If you'd like to combine breastfeeding with expressed milk feeds, you'll need a breast pump to collect your breast milk to give it to your baby in a bottle.

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.

How to combination feed with a bottle and formula

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 your body time to reduce the amount of milk it makes, 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.

Combination feeding using formula can reduce the quantity of breast milk you make, so you must carry on breastfeeding your little one and expressing using a pump regularly to keep your supply going.

  • What are the benefits of combination feeding?

    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…

    • Family and friends can be involved in feeding the baby.
    • Mum can get a break and have some freedom away from breastfeeding if she wants.
    • It can be handy if you're going back to work and plan on expressing breast milk to be given to your baby in a bottle.
    • If you're going away and need to leave your baby, they can still be given breast milk in a bottle.
    • You can monitor how much milk your baby is getting when you use a bottle.
    • Feeding using both breast and bottle means that you can still maintain your breast milk supply if you continue to pump and directly breastfeed.

    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 not breastfeed as well 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.

  • What should I do if my baby won’t latch for breastfeeding after combination feeding?

    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.

  • Can you go back to breastfeeding after formula feeding?

    Yes, if you still have a good supply of breast milk, 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 amount of formula you give your baby.

    The more you express, the more you'll make, so continuing to pump and having lots of skin-to-skin time with your baby will help to boost your milk supply and encourage your baby 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.