Put a question to Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Education Minister

My feed

What do you need for combination feeding? A guide

Thinking of combination feeding your baby? Here are five items designed to support your feeding journey that Mumsnet users recommend themselves.

By Rebecca Roberts | Last updated Sep 18, 2023

Mother with baby

Created by

Combination feeding - aka mixed feeding - is a popular choice among parents as it offers multiple benefits for both the baby and the mother. But before you dive into combi-feeding your DC, it's important to understand what it entails.

In this guide, we'll take a detailed look at everything related to combination feeding, including what you'll need as well as its advantages and potential challenges for your family. You'll also find tips from MAM experts on how to get started - from choosing the right bottle to sterilisation techniques. And if you're ever thinking of switching back to exclusive breastfeeding, we'll cover that too.

Remember that your baby’s needs and therefore appetite for milk will change day by day so don't worry if they take more from the bottle on one day than another. Allow your baby to take the lead on the amounts for combination feeding and to take how much milk they want at each feed. You can read more about how much and how often to bottle feed your baby here.

So, let's get started on your journey towards successful combination feeding.

Understanding combination feeding

Combination feeding, which involves both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, offers flexibility in nourishing your baby. This approach allows for the individual needs of both mother and baby to be met, and it also enables another caregiver to help with feeding.

Additionally, mixed feeding can be beneficial in easing the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to bottle feeding with expressed milk. By incorporating a mix of breast milk and bottle feeding, parents can tailor their approach to suit their unique circumstances and preferences.

Read next: A complete guide to combination feeding for parents

Why choose combination feeding?

Combination feeding offers flexibility for parents with other commitments in the first year of their DC's life. It also allows other caregivers to bond with the baby through feeding. Or it may even be that some babies may prefer bottle feeding or face latching difficulties.

Whatever your decision, choosing to combination feed or not is your choice and yours alone - only do what you feel is best for you and your baby.

What Mumsnet users say

"I know plenty of people who combination fed. My first would take a bottle from anyone else but me. It meant I could go to an exercise class while my mum had him and his dad could give bottles evenings and weekends." TheIsleOfTheLost

Advantages of mixed feeding your baby

Combination feeding offers several advantages for parents and babies alike:

  • It allows for a more balanced workload between parents, giving mothers the opportunity to get some much-needed rest in those first few months of life while others can take over feeding duties.

  • It also provides easier monitoring of the baby's intake, which can be especially helpful for those concerned about their breast milk supply.

  • Combination feeding can aid in the transition to solid foods during the weaning process and promotes a sense of independence for the baby as they learn to adapt to different feeding methods.

  • If you’re bottle feeding but want to start or resume breastfeeding, choosing to combination feed can help make the transition easier, allowing you to breastfeed while still using a bottle when needed.

  • Expressed milk can be introduced and used in certain recipes when your baby is weaning for added nutrition and goodness.

Mother holding baby

Potential challenges in combination feeding

Combination feeding can present certain challenges that parents should be aware of, including:

  • The extra time and effort required for pumping and preparing bottles of express breast milk.

  • This process can be time-consuming and may require careful planning.

  • Another challenge is nipple confusion, where some babies may struggle to switch between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. If you’re combination feeding, using a teat from MAM’s SkinSoft range can help - they are accepted by 94% of babies and are made from skin soft silicone, so they shouldn’t cause nipple confusion.

  • Maintaining a consistent milk supply while incorporating bottle feeding can be challenging for some mothers. Breast milk supply is generally driven by frequent, effective removal of milk from the breasts. So, seeking support from healthcare professionals, such as lactation consultants, can be beneficial in addressing these challenges.

Balancing breastfeeding and bottle feeding schedules, especially in the early stages, can also prove to be complex. It is important to consider the demand cycle for milk production to ensure that your breasts are emptied often enough and discomfort and engorgement are avoided.

So, what do you need for combination feeding?

When it comes to combination feeding, having the right supplies is essential to ensure a smooth transition between breastfeeding and formula feeding. One crucial item is the bottle, which should mimic breastfeeding. Consider MAM's Easy Start Anti Colic bottles for a good choice. Also, a breast pump like MAM's 2-in-1 electric pump is necessary for expressing your breastmilk supply when needed.

To store expressed milk, storage containers or bags such as MAM's storage pots are necessary. Proper cleaning and hygiene can be maintained with bottle brushes and sterilisers, including MAM's soft bottle brush. Nursing pads and nipple cream can provide comfort and address leakage issues. Additionally, consider nipple shields, like MAM's, for short-term support during breastfeeding.

Choosing the right bottle

When it comes to choosing the right bottle for combination feeding, there are a few important factors to consider.

First and foremost, you'll want to look for bottles with a shape and nipple design that closely resembles the breast. This can help ensure a smooth transition between breastfeeding and bottle feeding for your baby.

Additionally, bottles with anti-colic features can be beneficial in reducing gas and discomfort. It's also important to choose bottles that are easy to clean and assemble, as this can make your feeding routine much easier. Opting for bottles made from safe and BPA-free materials, like those recommended by UNICEF, is essential for your baby's health.

What Mumsnet users say

“MAM, 100%. They were fantastic! My DS suffered really bad reflux… MAM we're the best by a country mile.” MagicDucky

“MAM bottles were easy to clean, travel with etc.” APurpleSquirrel

Picking the correct breast pump

When it comes to picking the correct breast pump for when you express milk, there are a few factors to consider. First, determine whether a manual or electric breast pump is more suitable for your needs. Look for breast pumps with adjustable suction levels for personalised comfort. 

Consider the portability and ease of use of the breast pump. Check if the breast pump is compatible with different flange sizes for a comfortable fit. It's also important to look for breast pumps with a closed system to prevent contamination. One good option to consider is MAM's 2-in-1 electric breast pump

Don’t miss: Read our Mumsnet review of MAM’s 2-in-1 breast pump here

MAM breast pump

“I've got a MAM electric 2-in-1 which is brilliant and much less dramatic than the hospital one I used originally.”


2-in-1 Single Breast Pump

Buy now from MAM

How to start combination feeding

To start combination feeding, first seek guidance from a healthcare professional. Then, introduce the bottle during a calm feeding session, gradually increasing bottle feeds while still breastfeeding. As the NHS says, it may take a little while for a breastfed baby to get the hang of bottle feeding.

Maintain skin-to-skin contact and cuddle time to promote bonding during a feed, no matter if you're using a bottle or breast. And remember - be patient as both you and baby adjust to the new routine.

We spoke to Claire Bailey, a registered nurse, midwife and health visitor with over 16 years experience, to get her expert tips on getting started with combination feeding and getting your baby used to a bottle: 

  1. Try giving a bottle to your baby when they are not hungry - they can play with it and get used to the feeling of the teat in their mouth. This will help them to try it before they become hungry. Practice makes perfect. 

  2. Use different positions. Try to hold your baby facing out to look around the room, or sitting propped up on your legs.

  3. Try moving around when feeding your baby – distracting your baby while feeding them by gently bouncing or swaying may help your baby to take a bottle.

  4. Try different teat flows, some babies may become overwhelmed with a fast-flow teat. However, some babies might prefer a faster-flow teat, especially if you have a fast let-down. Be guided by your baby and their needs. 

  5. Your baby may like the milk at various temperatures; you can try it warm, room temperature, or cold.

  6. Try wrapping the bottle in a muslin or cloth that smells of you.

Expert tips to bottle and breastfeed together

  • Maintaining open communication with your healthcare provider, such as your health visitor or public health nurse, about your feeding choices is crucial for successful combination feeding.

  • It's also important to practise good hygiene by regularly sterilising bottles and pump parts to ensure the safety of your baby.

  • Finding a support network of other parents who have experience with combination feeding, including guidance from your health visitor, can provide valuable insights and advice.

  • Remember to trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and your baby. By following these expert tips, you can navigate the world of combination feeding with confidence.

  • Oxytocin, a hormone released during breastfeeding, plays a crucial role in milk production and can be influenced by factors such as relaxation and happiness. So, if you choose to combi-feed, remember to relax, even if you're using a bottle.

Mother holding baby

Importance of sterilisation

Proper sterilisation is crucial in combination feeding to prevent bacterial contamination and ensure the safety of your baby. It is essential to sterilise bottles, nipples, and pump parts before each use. 

You can achieve this by using a steriliser or boiling water for thorough cleaning. Alternatively, MAM’s baby bottles have a unique self-sterilisation feature, which involves simply adding 20ml of water to the bottle base, assembling the bottle parts in the correct order, and quickly heating them in the microwave for just three minutes. 

Inadequate sterilisation can pose potential health risks, so it's important to be mindful of this aspect. Consult with your healthcare provider for specific guidelines on sterilisation to ensure that you are taking the necessary precautions for your baby's well-being.

Is it possible to return to exclusive breastfeeding after combination feeding?

Returning to exclusive breastfeeding after combination feeding is possible with persistence and support. The NHS first recommends that you seek guidance from a lactation consultant or your health visitor. The following tips may also help:

  • Hold and cuddle your baby as much as possible, ideally with skin to skin - this will encourage your body to make milk

  • Express your breast milk regularly to stimulate your breasts to make milk

  • Gradually reduce bottle feeds, increasing breastfeeding sessions

  • Offer your breast frequently throughout the day and at least once at night time

  • If your baby is latching on, feed often and don't worry about the length of feeds to begin with

  • Choose times when your baby is relaxed, alert and not too hungry

And lastly, be patient with your baby and yourself.

What Mumsnet users say

"We ended up doing the reverse to most with our first as she had a tongue tie so was bottle fed with expressed milk before we introduced the breast again at two weeks old. OH was able to do night feeds right from the start which was awesome and a lifesaver frankly." Fredthespider 

About MAM

We’re MAM and we love babies. We believe that only the best is good enough for them! That’s why for over 45 years we’ve been developing extra-safe baby products that combine attractive, innovative design with proven medical benefits. So, parents can feel confident, and babies feel good.

About the author

Rebecca Roberts is a writer, editor, and content marketing expert hailing from Leeds. Here at Mumsnet, she brings parents content designed to make life easier. Having birthed two DC just 15 months apart, she has first-hand experience with both EBF and combination feeding. So, she’s fully invested in making sure parents get the right information they need when it comes to feeding their babies. 

Beyond her role as an editor here at Mumsnet, Rebecca can be found balancing life as a working mum of two toddlers and when she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her at a local playgroup, in a nearby coffee shop, or walking the dog.