There are various reasons why it might make sense to combine breast and formula when feeding your baby. Perhaps you’ll be returning to work and will struggle to express enough milk to cover your baby’s daytime feeds. Maybe you just want somebody else to be able to feed your baby sometimes. Whatever has prompted the decision to start mixed feeding, there are a few ways you can make the shift easier – for you and your little one.
When to start
Most experts agree it’s best to establish a successful breastfeeding routine before you introduce mixed feeding. Try to wait until your baby is six to eight weeks old, when you’ll both be settled.
Introducing formula milk too soon can affect your milk supply if your body is still getting into a rhythm. You don’t want to leave it too long either, though, as it can be harder to get a baby to accept a bottle and teat instead of your breast.
If you know you want to start mixed feeding at a certain time – if you have a date for going back to work, say – then introduce it a few weeks beforehand. Reduce the number of breastfeeds gradually, as this will help your body adapt. Your breasts will be less likely to become engorged and leak, and it also reduces the risk of mastitis.
It will take your breasts from three days to a week to get used to missing one feed per day. If your baby is going into day care, it makes sense to drop a daytime feed. Your body will learn to produce less milk at that time, while leaving you with plenty for the morning and evening feeds.
How to do it
It’s best to offer your baby their first bottle when they’re relaxed rather than hungry. It’s also a good idea for someone else to bottle-feed your baby at first. If she can smell your breast milk, she might reject the formula.
As long as you continue to breastfeed, mixed feeding shouldn’t affect your milk supply. At around six months, your baby can start to drink from a sippy cup in the daytime, so you might not need bottles for too long.
Making it easier
Your baby might be confused at first, as a different sucking action is needed for a bottle. Try different teats, softened with warm boiled water, until you find one he prefers.
You could also try holding your baby a different way for bottle feeds than you do for breastfeeding. For example, some people lean their baby against their chest and stomach, facing outwards. It can still be comforting for your baby to bottle-feed with plenty of skin-to-skin contact, so try that too.
Don’t worry if it takes a while for them to get the hang of it. It can take a few weeks for both you and your baby to feel comfortable with bottle-feeding. Just relax and be patient.