There are many reasons to want to combine breastfeeding with formula feeding. What ever choice you make, it will be the right one for you and your baby. Some women worry that mixed feeding introducing formula, will interfere with breastfeeding but that is not necessarily the case. There are strategies you can use to ensure that you can successfully combine both forms of feeding.
To keep up your milk supply you will need to express when you would otherwise have given a breast feed. Just prior to or just after a feed is fine, but it is important to do this so your body knows to keep making milk. While your milk supply is still getting established it is important to either breastfeed or express every time your baby is due to be fed. If you skip a feed it may interfere with your supply.
A very young baby may get used to a bottle very quickly – the formula comes out of the bottle faster than it does the breast, with less work required by them on the bottle, compared to the breast. They may then reject the breast. This is called nipple confusion. Ways to avoid this is to express until you feel the let down or can see milk dripping from your nipple. This will mean your baby won’t need to work as hard at the breast, so will be more likely to switch between the two. At the next feed, try to feed a little early so she is hungry enough to take a feed, but not so starving that she can’t latch on.
If your baby won’t take a bottle try to hold them in a different position to as you would if you were breast feeding them. For example, lie them on the floor and lie next to them or sit in front of them to hold the bottle. If this doesn’t work, ask someone else to give them the bottle (the baby’s father, or a friend). They will be more likely to take it from someone they don’t associate with breast milk.
If you’re very concerned about nipple confusion, there are alternatives. If your baby is very young (days or weeks old) you could use a syringe, spoon or cup. This is quite time consuming, but is a good temporary alternative. Your midwife or caregiver can show you how to feed using this method. The other alternative is a ‘supply line’. This is a tiny tube that is taped to the nipple, delivering formula, so you baby still has the sensation of attaching to the breast while feeding.