Combination feeding

Some parents may wish to feed their baby using a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding – using either expressed breast milk or infant formula milk

Also referred to as mixed feeding, combination feeding can be particularly useful if mums are returning to work or to enable someone other than mum (e.g. the father or a family member) to feed the baby.

When can it be used?

Combination feeding can be introduced when breastfeeding is well established (usually around six weeks) to reduce the chance of the baby preferring the sensation of bottle feeding, which requires a different sucking method. It can also be used if a mother wishes to move away from exclusive breastfeeding and can be beneficial in providing a smooth transition from breast to bottle feeding.

The challenge for combination feeding is to minimise any risk to breastfeeding, as it will reduce the amount of breast milk that is produced

How can it be introduced?

Mothers can introduce their babies to bottles via expressed breast milk before trying infant formula milk. If the baby is under six months old then a first stage formula should be used. A bottle feed should initially be given at the same time each day. A gradual transition to combination feeding will help reduce the risk of the mother’s breasts becoming engorged and painful.

Mums should work out when they’d like to breastfeed and when they’d like to use a bottle so that their bodies get used to producing the right amount of milk at the right time. When switching feeds, mums should give their bodies time to adjust. The challenge for combination feeding is to minimise any risk to breastfeeding, as it will reduce the amount of breast milk that is produced. This can be minimised if feeds are gradually changed.

The best chance of preserving and increasing breast milk is achieved by always offering the breast first, when possible, and not increasing the amount of formula. Giving the baby infant formula milk alerts mum’s body to produce less breast milk so mum must be sure to maintain all other breastfeeds. It can be a difficult and time-consuming process to reverse and to reestablish a milk supply adequate enough to breastfeed exclusively.

Top tips for combination feeding

Some breastfed babies are reluctant to switch to bottles at first. Parents can try:

  • Different types of teats
  • Holding the baby in a different position to that used when breastfeeding
  • Letting someone other than the mother give the bottle to the baby.


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