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Combining Breast and Bottle Feeding

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 14 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Breast Milk Breast Bottle Teat Formula

Combining breast feeding and bottle feeding is a possible option for many women and their reasons for choosing this are varied. Combining breast and bottle may mean that you have decided to give your baby both breast and formula, or that you are planning to express your breast milk into a bottle but also giving some time for bonding and comfort at the breast too.

Reasons for Combining Breast and Bottle Feeding

The most common reason for combining these two methods of feeding is when the new mother has to return to work following her maternity leave.

If you have been successfully breast feeding your baby since birth and your baby is quite happy to continue, it is possible to carry on giving your baby breast milk without worry. It is also likely that you will be starting to wean your baby at around six months, and once this is established the need for milk feeds declines as normal diet is initiated.

Other reasons for combining both methods are when you want to share the feeding with someone else or perhaps your breast milk is no longer enough to satisfy your baby and you want to top up with formula.

Every woman has their own perfectly good reasons for wanting to change their feeding routines, but it is recommended that breast milk is used where possible. If your baby is happy taking breast milk and you are making enough, the best plan is probably to express your breast milk into a bottle rather than having the additional expense of buying formula, along with any sterilising equipment needed (obviously this depends how old your baby is when you decide to change your feeding routine).

How to Combine Breast and Bottle

Very young babies will not take to combination feeding very well in most cases. The sucking actions needed to suckle at the breast and on the bottle are very different. If you imagine sucking the back of your hand this is like a breast, whereas a bottle teat is more like the end of your finger; they both require your mouth and tongue to take a different position.

Young babies are less able to adapt to the change needed to go to either the breast or the bottle and may get confused. This can mean that they are not getting enough nutrition from either and will get upset and stressed by the choice.

If you must combine breast milk and bottle feeding and your baby is still very young, it is probably best to express your breast milk into the bottle and feed your baby purely from the bottle, knowing that your baby is getting all the benefit from the breast milk, whilst being happy to take only a bottle teat.

You may be able to feed your baby from the breast in the morning, followed by a bottle at lunchtime and tea time and going back to the breast before bed. You must let your baby dictate when they want their feeds, especially whilst weaning.

If you have decided to use formula milk in the bottle, there are certain tips to remember to make the transition more successful. When feeding your baby turn him or her away from you so that they are not trying to find your nipple or smell your skin; this may discourage them from the bottle.

You may need to express a little milk during the day for the first week anyway as your breasts may become engorged or start leaking excessively as the milk isn’t getting used.

Try warming the formula milk to the same temperature as your breast milk so your baby doesn’t have too many changes to contend with at once.

Breast feeding and bottle feeding can be successfully combined for many women and babies, but it is far easier the older your child is. It may be best to start by expressing your milk into the bottle whilst your baby and your breasts get used to the bottle before getting used to requiring less breast milk.

Don’t feel pressured into combining the two if you don’t need to. If you are having any difficulty, please see your health visitor for more information.

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