Combination feeding means offering your baby milk from both breast and bottle. The bottle can be either filled with pumped breast milk or formula milk. Just be aware that once you make the decision to move away from using breast milk, your body will slow down the production of its milk and this is difficult to reverse. So best advice is to be patient and take it slow, both you and your baby will need to take time adjusting to the change.
Some reasons for combination feeding are:
- Going back to work
- Allows other people to feed your baby, e.g. your partner or babysitter
- Your baby’s weight is of concern and you need to see how much expressed milk they are drinking
When to start combination feeding
Once breast-feeding is firmly established, your baby is latching on nicely and your milk supply is plentiful, you can consider combination feeding. This is usually anytime after 4 to 6 weeks (if you are moving onto formula milk only, you can do this at anytime).
Slowly does it
By dropping just one breast-feed a week you’ll be able to give your body enough time to adjust. Your breasts need to learn to produce less milk. Otherwise your breasts may leak or become engorged, which is painful (expressing milk is a good way to relieve the pressure). Choosing which feeds to offer from bottle and breast totally depends on you and your baby. Your breasts are most full in the mornings, so you could consider doing the nighttime feed with a bottle. This way your partner and baby can have some bonding time while you can catch up on some sleep, but whatever you choose make sure you are consistent. Your breasts will adjust to the change and stop producing milk when you stop feeding from them at particular times of the day.
Schedule some time during the day to express your milk; this way you can be prepared for when you baby might need a bottle. One of the handy things about breast milk is that you can freeze it for up to 6 months.
Helping your baby take to the bottle
It may take some time for your baby to adjust because the teat will feel very different to your nipple, so don’t worry if they don’t take to it straight away. Here are some tips to help:
- Start using the bottle with expressed milk
- Warm the bottle up in some hot water
- If someone else is feeding, move away so they can’t smell your breast milk
- Try different teats
- Distract them with some toys or music
If you were unable to breastfeed earlier on, but you want to try combination feeding, it still might be possible if you focus a lot of attention on breast feeding and pumping. The more milk you extract the more you will make, but speak to a healthcare professional for more help and advice.