Mixed feeding

Dad giving baby bottleWhen you're desperate for sleep and, frankly, a little time off from your milk round, the idea of mixed feeding - combining breastfeeding with formula-feeding - can seem very attractive indeed.

Introducing formula milk alongside breastmilk may have its plus points but it does have minus points, too - for you and your baby. They may be minus points you can live with (in a two-sides-to-every-equation kind of way) but you still need to know what they are.

Let's take your baby first. She'll still be getting all the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding and you'll still be passing your antibodies on to her through your milk, but the introduction of formula will mean her gut may no longer be so well protected against allergies.

As for you, mixed feeding can affect your milk supply, especially if you start it when your baby is still very young (before six weeks old).

Breastmilk works on a supply-and-demand basis: the more formula you give your baby, the less milk you'll produce.

It's also worth knowing that milk flows faster and more steadily out of a bottle than it does from a breast, so your baby doesn't have to work quite so hard to get it. Too many bottles in the early weeks, when your baby is still really only an L-plate breastfeeder, and she could lose the knack (or the will) to suck at the breast properly.

Mixed feeding can work but it's not a magic bullet. If you decide to do it, you may be able to keep on breastfeeding - you may even be able to return to exclusive breastfeeding - but there's a definite chance that you may find yourself giving up breastfeeding altogether.

What Mumsnetters say about mixed feeding

  • I think mixed feeding has a place. Where the mother needs a respite and she is about to give up completely, it could save the breastfeeding and give her time to recover. Maybe she'll only be able to continue for another month or two (because her supply gets reduced) but that is better than nothing. blueshoes
  • Many women (not all) can 'get away' with a bedtime bottle for a young baby, as long as the baby continues to wake in the night. Many women can appear to get away with reduced breastfeeding, only for the supply to hit a crisis point weeks later when the baby has a growth spurt and wants more. It is absolutely not a question of being 'determined'. If only that's all it took. tiktok
  • I know several mums who got it stuck in their head that breastfeeding babies was an all-or-nothing thing, so, when they struggled with breastfeeding, they gave up and went over to formula-feeding completely. I think if they had used some formula-feeding to help them through the tough days, then perhaps breastfeeding might have worked out in the long run. For me, the occasional use of formula has made the business of breastfeeding a whole lot less stressful. love2sleep
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is probably essential to maximise allergy protection. But breast and formula is better for your baby than formula only. The Dundee study found that any breastfeeding that lasted at least 13 weeks (with or without formula) showed a measurable protective affect against gastroenteritis, for example. tiktok


Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: over 1 year ago