Mixed feeding, or combination feeding, is when you feed your baby with a mix of breastmilk and formula milk. The fact is, you don’t always have to make a choice between breast or bottle – and using both can be an option.
Why might you try mixed or combination feeding?
There are a number of reasons you might want to try mixed feeding. Generally, it’s probably because you’re breastfeeding but want to be able to give your baby formula milk sometimes, for example, if you’re going away / out for a day or evening.
Or perhaps you just want Dad to be a bit more involved with feeding, and mixed / combination feeding means he can do more without you having to express.
Another reason you might want to do it is if you have twins and are finding it hard to breastfeed both babies. (We’ve got a specific article all about mixed / combination feeding if you’ve got twins).
How to do combination / mixed feeding if you’ve got twins
One of the mums on our forum, MrsElf, curious about combination / mixed feeding, says:
“My daughter is now a month old, and is currently exclusively breastfed, however at some point I would like to introduce a bottle as well, probably just one in the evening/night so my husband can share feeding – so I have a couple of questions.
“What’s the best age to introduce a bottle? I’ve read after 6 weeks to avoid nipple confusion, but also that if you leave it this long they may not take a bottle at all?
“What are the pros and cons of expressing or using formula? I have a manual pump, but am a bit confused about when in the day to express, would my supply in the evening be impacted if she is getting expressed milk?
“Could I just give her a couple of ounces of formula? How would using formula, just now and again, impact on my supply? It’s all so confusing! Any advice very gratefully received!”
What do our mums say about combination/mixed feeding?
There’s quite a bit of chat about this topic on our forum, including comments from mums who are confused about how to do it, to mums offering tips and advice on how they did it.
First off, we should say that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively where possible up to 6 months.
But where this isn’t an option, for whatever reason (and the RCM has now agreed it needs to offer more support to women who bottlefeed) could combination feeding be a good option for mums who do want to keep breastfeeding but are finding it a bit of a struggle?
Mum Lulu-K-82 on our forum says this:
“I am mixed feeding (just the one baby!) but she is a milk monster and I got to the point where I wanted to give up breastfeeding completely as it was really affecting me and making me really stressed.
“I decided to try mixed feeding at about 4 weeks. I actually cried the first time I gave her formula as I felt I was letting her and myself down which is ridiculous but that is the kind of pressure we put on ourselves!!
“Mixed feeding has been going great for me. For every bottle I gave I expressed so I don’t think it affected my supply at all – she certainly seems to be getting enough.
“She is now nearly 10 weeks so almost 6 weeks of mixed feeding for us and she is gaining weight nicely.
“I still get the odd twang of guilt that I didn’t exclusively breastfeed for longer but the result is a much happier baby and a much more relaxed mummy.
“Plus hubby can help out with feeds and that frees up a little time so I can have a nice bath or just get some chores done.”
We asked the mums in our Facebook community about their experience of combi feeding too. Jenni M told us:
“I’m currently trying combination feeding as I’m determined it’s not going to be as difficult as with my first where I ran myself into the ground.
“My little one is 7 weeks and she has a morning and evening bottle then breastfeeds between and during the night.
“A little hard to know how much to give her but we are slowly working it out.”
What does the doctor say about mixed / combination feeding?
We asked our trusted GP Dr Philippa Kaye about mixed / combination feeding and she agrees that if it works for you and your baby – then go for it.
“The old saying of ‘breast is best’ is outdated in my opinion,” she tells MFM. “Quite simply, ‘fed is best’ and whatever combination of breast, formula or both is fine as long as baby is fed.
“Follow the guidelines about sterilising bottles and making up formula, and remember you can also top up or bottle feed using expressed breast milk.
If you’re worried about whether you’re baby’s getting enough milk, Philippa says this: “There isn’t a ‘correct’ amount of milk a baby needs – they need how much they need and for some babies it is more than others.
“You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby but it is possible to do so with bottles, so if you are offering a bottle after a breast feed watch your baby.
If they reject it, or stop feeding they have had enough. If you are using bottle feeds in between breast feeds it is reasonable to start with the amount recommended on the formula for your baby’s age.
If they don’t want all of it, don’t force it – and if they drain the bottle and seem to be crying for more then give more.”
As for the comment from mum Lulu-K-82 – that she felt guilty that she wasn’t breastfeeding exclusively – Philippa reminds us that it’s important to feed your baby in a way that’s right for you and them.
“We put far too much pressure on women during and after pregnancy to do things the ‘right’ way which is putting a big strain on their mental health,” she says. “So do what suits you as long as your baby is fed and doing well.”