Combining Breastfeeding And Formula Feeding
The idea of combining breastfeeding and formula feeding came about as I was starting to think about the logistics of going back to work. I was home on maternity leave with my singleton, M, for 12 weeks. However, after one month at home, I was already wondering how pumping at work would go. Would I pump enough milk? Would I have enough time to pump? My breastfeeding experience with the twins helped open me up to the possibility of supplementing with formula. But, I wasn’t really sure how or if I should be combining breastfeeding and formula feeding.
One of my biggest questions was whether it would be difficult to introduce formula as M got older. Given my worries about returning to work, I decided to ask about introducing formula, as a supplement, at M’s 6 week pediatrician appointment. This is what I learned.
Introduce formula by 2 months old
This was a surprise. It was much earlier than I anticipated. Our pediatrician said to make sure your baby will easily accept formula, it is easiest to give it by 2 months old. It is easier to introduce formula early because the baby will get used to its taste.
Even with my previous experience of giving both formula and breast milk to the twins, it was very hard to give M that first bottle of formula. However, I was confident that in the long run it would help me breastfeed longer. It turned out to work really well. M never had more than 1 bottle of formula a day over the next year. The benefit of combining breastfeeding and formula feeding was a reduction in stress. If I didn’t pump enough milk at work or I needed to be away for a couple hours on the weekend, I wasn’t overly worried about how much breast milk was available.
Mix breast milk and formula
If your baby won’t take formula initially, mix it with breast milk. I recommend either starting with one quarter or one half formula and the rest of the bottle containing breast milk. Add more formula to the bottle every 2-3 days until your baby is drinking formula by itself. This is also a good method if you are worried about how your baby’s stomach will react to formula.
One thing I found confusing at first was how to combine breast milk and formula in one bottle. Should you mix powdered formula with breast milk or water? The short answer is mix powdered formula with water then combine with the amount of breast milk you want. Start by making up the formula. An example is to put 2 oz of water in a bottle with one scoop of formula. Shake the bottle to mix it. Add another 2 oz of breast milk and shake lightly to mix the formula and breast milk. This gives about a 50:50 mixture, but you can adjust your breast milk to formula ratio as needed. M ended up getting a lot of mixed formula and breast milk bottles because I typically pumped about 2-3 oz less than he needed when I was at work.
Is it safe to mix formula and breast milk?
I would like to point out that it is completely safe to mix formula and breast milk together in a bottle. You may have heard that you are not supposed to mix breast milk and formula. The only reason for this is to prevent breast milk (aka liquid gold) from going to waste. After 6 weeks old I knew my baby was a good eater. I was comfortable that his bottles would generally be completely finished. The biggest risk of mixing formula and breast milk is a small amount of breast milk might go to waste. The older your baby gets, the less of a concern this is.
Personally, my attitude towards using separate bottles for feedings is that “ain’t nobody got time for that”. I prefer to take the very small risk of wasting an ounce of breast milk, rather than making up two separate bottles. You won’t have a fussy baby waiting to be fed, plus you will have less prep time and less clean up. All very important things when you have a newborn at home.
Decide On Number Of Formula Feedings
If you are going to be combining breastfeeding and formula feeding, it is best to decide on approximately how many feedings a day will be formula versus breast milk. In order to continue breastfeeding you will need to maintain your breast milk supply. To do this, slowly introduce a second or third formula feed every 3-4 days. This will maintain the appropriate supply of breast milk. Plus, slowly adding formula feeds will help reduce breast engorgement for mom.
Another thing to consider is the adjustment to formula for baby. The first brand or type of formula you try might not work out. Don’t rush into more than 1 bottle of formula a day until you know your baby is reacting well to the diet change.
I hope these tips give you a better understanding of what combining breastfeeding and formula feeding is like and give you an idea of how to approach it.
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