Whether it’s on medical advice or to give yourself a break, here’s what to know about supplementing with formula for your baby.
Mama, as long as your little one’s belly is full, they don’t mind how you got there.
There are lots of reasons for supplementing breast milk with formula.
Maybe your doctor has recommended increasing your baby’s calorie intake.
Maybe you can work more efficiently if someone shares the baby-feeding load.
And maybe you’re opting for mixed feeding as an investment in your mental health.
If you want to know how to supplement with formula, you’ve come to the right place!
Whatever your reason, here’s what you need to know about combination feeding.
In this article: 📝
- Why is mixed feeding not recommended?
- How to start supplementing with formula
- Are there benefits to supplementing with formula?
- Can you breastfeed during the day and give formula at night?
Why is mixed feeding not recommended?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) advise mamas to exclusively breastfeed (i.e. no formula at all) for the first six months.
And then to keep nursing alongside solid food until their baby is two.
This advice is rooted in a couple of different things:
- Breast milk has nutrients and antibodies that build babies’ immune systems.
- In parts of the world where families don’t have reliable access to clean water for mixing formula, breast milk is the safer option.
As well as this, mixed feeding can sometimes be cautioned against as it may throw your milk supply off sync with your little one’s need to feed.
If your baby has a growth spurt, they’ll feed more, so your boobs will make more milk to give them the calories they need to start bursting out of their newborn clothes.
If you give formula instead of feeding on demand, your body doesn’t get this message, and your milk supply won’t go up in line with how much your baby wants to drink.
But it doesn’t always work out exactly like this.
And we may not have to tell you that nursing can be hard work — ask our the Peanut Community.
Even if your breastfeeding journey is going off without a hitch, it’s normal to wish that it wasn’t always down to you.
How to start supplementing with formula
When families choose to combination feed, it’s because nursing is still a priority.
So, when you’re planning out your mixed feeding schedule and deciding when to start supplementing with formula, you might want to build things around preserving your breast milk supply.
That way, it’ll be easy to nurse your little one for their other feeds.
Here are our tips for combo feeding success:
Take it slow
Start by introducing one bottle a day.
If you want them to take two bottles a day, introduce another one the following week.
And so on.
Taking your time to find your mixed-feeding groove gives your boobs a chance to adjust.
Otherwise, they could end up being full for too long.
And this can lead to blocked ducts and a painful infection called mastitis.
Switching too quickly could also tell your body that it can make less milk, which may not be what you’re going for yet.
It’s important to note that if you’re combination feeding for medical reasons, you should take your lead from your doctors and go with the schedule they recommend.
Get some help
If it’s your little one’s first time taking a bottle, they might find it easier if someone else feeds them — mama smells too much like milk.
It can also be a great bonding experience for other family members to take a turn feeding the baby.
And just think of the things you can achieve with two free hands!
Time it right
If there’s no medical reason for supplementing breast milk with formula, it can help to wait until after your baby’s first month so that your milk supply is properly established.
In the beginning, you want to catch your baby when they’re thinking ‘sure, I could eat’ rather than waiting until hanger sets in.
If you’re combination feeding because of low supply, nurse first, and then give formula as a top up.
This way, your body continues to build up your milk supply, and your little one goes to sleep with a nice full belly.
Keep things separate
Combination feeding usually means that breast milk and formula are both in the meal plan, not that they’re in the same bottle.
You can mix pumped breast milk into a bottle with prepared formula, but if your little one decides that they’re not hungry after all, it’s a shame to waste the breast milk you worked so hard to make.
What they don’t tell you about mixed feeding
How many times have you already said ‘no one ever said that babies did that!?’
Your combo-fed baby might have yet more surprises up their tiny sleeves.
First up, formula might fill your baby up more than breastmilk, so they may wait longer between feeds.
We’re not necessarily saying this is a bad thing!
But if they’re very young and they’re on a feeding schedule, you might need to wake them up for their next meal.
Another thing? Formula poop looks different from breastfeeding poop.
It can be firmer, and smellier, than the runny, mustardy poop you’ve seen before.
Also, some people think it’s easier for babies to drink from a bottle than from the boob.
After a bottle, your little one might take some convincing to latch on to nurse, especially if they’re not particularly hungry.
Are there benefits to supplementing with formula?
There are definitely benefits to supplementing with formula.
From a health point of view, doctors might recommend combination feeding to help your little one gain weight.
Maybe your baby is taking their time to get back to their birth weight.
Or it’s taking a few extra days for your milk to come in.
If your little one is getting treatment for jaundice, hydration also becomes very important and might be given some supplemental formula feeds.
But we also need to talk about the benefit of combination feeding for your mental health.
In this case, supplementing with formula can:
- Ease your worries about whether your little one is getting ‘enough’.
- Allow you to share the load with someone else
- Give you a break to work, or do the things that make you feel like you.
Can you breastfeed during the day and give formula at night?
Pretty much, especially if your little one is past the newborn, feed round-the-clock phase.
A mama who’s had a couple of extra hours of sleep while someone else deals with the night feeds is probably a more relaxed mama when the sun comes up.
And that can only be good news for your little peanut.