Feeding your baby – combining breast and bottle

It’s the big decision – how are you going to feed your baby? You can try combining breastfeeding and bottlefeeding.

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When it comes to feeding your baby, you don’t have to feed your baby exclusively by breast or exclusively by bottle. It is possible to combine the two types of feeding successfully.

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Kerry, 34, mum to Tom, 10 months, gets to combine the bonding of breastfeeding with the convenience of the bottle.

“I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby but from the moment Tom arrived I had problems. He was born by caesarean and he was mucousy with a blocked nose. When he latched on, he couldn’t breathe and he’d panic and push me away.

“I was in hospital for three days but although I asked the midwives to help, I felt no one listened. By the time I got home, Tom still couldn’t feed properly and, despite me leaving tearful messages on my community midwives’ answering machine, I got no further help.

“Eventually Tom was too weak to latch on at all and I had to hand-express milk on to a spoon and drip it into his mouth. When he was 8 days old and my milk had all but dried up, my husband Darren drove to the local 24-hour supermarket at 4am out of desperation to buy formula. Tom drank it hungrily,” says Kerry.

Admitted to hospital

“The next day a healthcare worker came to the house to see Tom and weigh him. She found he’d lost a lot of weight and was dehydrated. We were sent to A&E and Tom was admitted to the children’s ward where he was fed formula through a tube that was put down his nose into his stomach,” recalls Kerry.

“We stayed in hospital for three days until he was rehydrated and it was a horrible, emotional time. Each feed I would breastfeed first then give him formula. The staff were wonderful, though, and gave me a lot of support to continue breastfeeding.

“Once we got home I continued breastfeeding first and topping up with formula at every feed – until my milk supply built up. By the time he was 4 months, I was breastfeeding Tom all day and at night, and he’d have a bottle of formula before bed,” Kerry explains.

Getting the hang of mixed feeding

“Once I got the hang of it, mixed feeding worked well. Darren could put Tom to bed and give me a break. I love the bond breastfeeding gives me and the convenience and even now I hate the extra work with bottlefeeding.

“Don’t feel guilty if you have to give formula. I’d been so brainwashed by the ‘breast is best’ campaign that I felt awful having to feed Tom this way, even when he was starving and it was obviously the best thing to do,” says Kerry.

Four steps to stress-free mixed feeding

Midwife Gail Johnson, from the Royal College of Midwives, suggests these techniques for combining breast and bottle:

  1. The more you put your baby to your breast the more milk you produce.
  2. Eat well, drink plenty of fluids and rest as often as you can to ensure your breast milk supply is constant.
  3. Give breast milk first and if he’s still hungry, top up with formula.
  4. If there are signs your baby is not being properly nourished, for example he is listless and sleepy, feed him more often and seek medical help.

Mum’s story

“I breastfed and gave bottles when I went back to work”

“At six months I had to go back to work but I hated the idea of losing that bond I had with Fran, so I continued to give the first morning feed, one when I got home from work and then one at bedtime. The rest of the time he had follow-on from a bottle and he was fine.

“I’d got him used to a bottle gradually over the last month before going back to work. Every evening, by the time I got home he was so pleased to see me and that feed became a real welcome home. Plus, as a working mum, I found that having kept up breastfeeding really helped when he started waking at night when he was teething – it meant I got him back to sleep much quicker, which was good for me too!”

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Laura, 36, mum to Fran, 1

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