There are plenty of reasons you might want to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding. Perhaps you’re going back to work after maternity leave, or perhaps you and your partner want to be more equally involved in feeding your child. Whatever your reasons, we’re here every step of the way. Here’s everything you need to know to help you get started with combination feeding.
Combination feeding: Expressing milk
Pumping breast milk in advance, means your baby can drink from your breast even when you’re not able to be there. If you’re new to expressing milk, you may find it useful to read the Office on Women’s Health’s advice on how to express breast milk or our guide to using a pump.
If expressing takes a while at first, persevere! Expressing can become easier as your body becomes used to it. You may also find that some methods work better for you than others. A double electric breast pump, such as the Philips Avent Double Electric Breast Pump, can save time by drawing on both breasts simultaneously.
When storing breast milk, use sterilized BPA-free containers or breast milk storage bags. Breast milk can be frozen straight away, refrigerated for up to four days or kept at room temperature for up to four hours.1
Can you combine breast milk from different days? You can, but you’ll need to chill the freshly expressed milk before combining it with milk that’s already cold. Combining breast milk that’s still warm with cold milk will raise the overall temperature and speed up bacterial growth.
If for any reason you can’t or would prefer not to express, supplementation feeding is still an option open to you! It’s possible to use a combination of breastfeeding and formula instead.
Introducing your baby to the bottle
What do you need to bear in mind when you start supplementation or combination feeding? Breast and bottle are different, for one thing, whether you’re using expressed milk or supplementing breastmilk with formula. A baby that’s already breastfeeding won’t know how to drink from a bottle automatically. It’s a new skill that your baby will need to learn.
If you give a bottle to a hungry baby who doesn’t know how to use it, the baby could end up frustrated. The first time you give your baby a bottle, the baby should be relaxed and somewhere between full and hungry: not too full to want to eat, but not too hungry to take the time to understand the bottle. If you’re planning to go back to work, try to introduce the bottle a few weeks beforehand, so you can set out in the knowledge that bottle feeding won’t be a problem while you’re away.
A bottle specifically designed to mimic the breast, such as the Philips Natural Baby Bottle, may make bottle feeding more intuitive for your baby. The wide breast-shaped nipple makes it easier for your baby to combine breast and bottle feeding, by promoting a natural latch-on that’s similar to the breast.
Combination feeding routine: When and how much to feed
It can be tricky when you have other obligations, but let your baby set the feeding schedule if possible. Feed when your baby is hungry, rather than at predetermined times.
When your baby shows signs of being full, such as turning away from the bottle, it’s time to stop feeding. Bear this in mind when you begin introducing bottle feeding. You may already be used to stopping breastfeeding when your baby is full, but it’s easy to start thinking of the contents of a bottle as a meal that should be finished. Even if there’s still milk in the bottle, let your baby decide when the meal is over. As it’s come into contact with bacteria in baby’s mouth, leftover milk in the bottle should be thrown away and not reused.
For more information on how to know whether your child is hungry, check the CDC’s advice on signs that your child is hungry or full.2
Combination feeding advice and tips
Breastfeed your baby directly at the breast in the mornings and evenings, arranging for bottle feeds in the interim for effective combination feeding.
To allow plenty of time for your baby to adjust to using a bottle, start combination feeding a month before you head back to work.
When supplementing breastmilk with formula, help maintain your milk supply by breastfeeding whenever you have the opportunity. If your milk production seems to be falling over the work day, try to find opportunities to pump at work.
In more ways than one, your baby becomes attached to you during breastfeeding; sometimes, if you try using a bottle, they know that you may be withholding the “real” thing. For an easier transition, let others try with the bottle rather than mom herself.
When looking for the right bottle, choose a nipple/teat that is similar to your breast flow (ages and guidelines can help you but keep in mind that the indicated ages are just a guideline – feel free to start at the lowest and work your way up).
These are the broad strokes of combination feeding, but every individual situation is different. Remember that you can talk to your doctor for personalized combination feeding advice.
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