Should I supplement with formula?  (mixed feeding)

Should I supplement with formula? (mixed feeding) - Transcript

I talk to a lot of breast feeding mothers in my everyday work and a very common question is, is it ok to carry on breastfeeding but also to offer formula as well? And one of the reasons for this that women often state is that they worry that the patterns are changing, the baby is feeding frequently and ultimately it is a concern about supply dropping – and many of you say that you would like your partner to be able to at least give one bottle a day, so that you can get a bit of rest. And I really do fully understand that rationale.

So my answer to you in this situation is yes, of course, it is possible to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. But what I would encourage you to do is to have a good look at the videos relating to how you can know that your baby is getting enough milk, and also false alarms that can make you think that you are not producing enough milk, and lots of other videos which talk about how you can be best supported while you are breast feeding as well. Once you have made those decisions and with that knowledge then yes, you can go forward in any way that you choose and the reason I am saying these things is because in my work with breastfeeding mothers, I see all too often, women losing confidence in breastfeeding – and reaching for formula is seen as the means to solve the problem and this is what used to happen historically when in our country, particularly, we had very little knowledge regarding breastfeeding and how it all works and so it’s really good to get that information for yourself, so that you make that informed choice.

And so it’s really important to know that if you offer formula in place of a breastfeed, your supply will actually drop and that’s fine, you would expect it to drop because there will be less stimulation happening at the breast at that time, unless of course you pumped your milk to keep up your supply.

So that’s one point that is good to know, just so that you understand how it works and also, some babies actually have a degree of nipple confusion when they go from breast to taking milk from a bottle, for instance. But it is fair to say that some babies don’t show that nipple confusion, so it is quite variable from baby to baby. And it’s also really important to know that if you are offering formula, your baby will actually receive less protection, because unfortunately formula doesn’t have any antibody protection.

Some studies have shown that combined feeding- that is, giving formula and breast milk, sometimes has a number of problems associated with that. So a really good way to increase your chances of success in this situation is to exclusively breast feed for the first three to four weeks if you can, may be up to six weeks and then to gradually reduce those nursing sessions and offer formula in place and this means your breastmilk is fully established, and there is a bit more flexibility then.

Please be assured that if you are only offering say, one or two or three feedings a day and offering formula at the other feedings, your body will continue to produce that milk at those particular feedings… and this can actually go on for years; some women literally have gone on and fed just morning and night for a long, long time and not offer the breast in between – and the great news is that any amount of breast milk is good for your baby and studies have shown that it is actually dose- related, so the more breast milk you give, the greater the benefit, but even a small amount of breast milk will still have certain benefits for your baby.

And finally, I just want to say that nothing is set in stone, so the good news is that your body can make milk again, your supply can be boosted up again… there is great flexibility with milk production, especially if you have already established your milk supply in those first four to six weeks, and  I have seen many mothers over the years actually re lactate and that means that they stop breastfeeding completely and then wanted to get that supply back in again, start to get the baby back at the breast, maybe did some extra pumping, and the body started to make that milk again. So there is lots of flexibility for combined feeding and it’s good to have all of that information at your fingertips so that you can go forward in whatever way that you choose.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

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