Introduction to mixed feeding

mum breastfeeding and expressing her breastmilk

Some parents decide to start mixed feeding about 6 to 8 weeks after having a baby, but it's different for everyone. If you choose to combine breast and bottle feeds from birth, it may make breastfeeding more difficult as your body thinks it needs to produce less milk.

There are various reasons to consider combining breast and bottle feeding, such as you:

  • want to share the feeding responsibility with your partner or family members – you could do this by introducing one or more bottle feeds a day
  • are mainly breastfeeding, but also want to offer expressed milk or formula – you might want to combine breastfeeding with formula or expressed bottle feeds if your baby is not getting enough milk
  • are bottle feeding, but want to start breastfeeding – you want the convenience and health benefits of breastfeeding
  • are returning to work or study and need to provide bottle feeds while you are away – you need to introduce bottle feeding to your baby
  • may be struggling with breastfeeding and need to give your baby some formula – you want to use formula for a short time while you get the hang of breastfeeding

Whatever your reasons for mixed feeding, if you can, we recommend that you breastfeed exclusively for 6 to 8 weeks after the birth – it can often take this long to get the hang of breastfeeding. This will help stimulate your milk production before you introduce bottle feeding (whether that’s formula or expressed breast milk).

There are different ways of mixed feeding:

  • combining breastfeeding and expressing breast milk
  • combining breastfeeding and formula feeds
  • combining breastfeeding, expressing breast milk and formula feeds
  • bottle feeding expressed breast milk and formula milk
  • bottle feeding expressed breast milk

Breastfeeding Friend from Start for Life

The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start for Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24 / 7.

Choosing which method is best for you

There are different things to think about with each method. If you're mixing breast and bottle feeding, you may find that your baby struggles with one of the methods, depending on how and when you introduce them.

Expressing exclusively

If your baby is not feeding properly, expressing can be a good way to make sure they get the benefits of breast milk.

If you're expressing breast milk, you are less likely to have problems with engorgement (breasts becoming uncomfortably full) and mastitis. However, some mums find that expressing is time consuming and tiring and it can be tricky to get the hang of expressing at first.

Find more information about expressing.

Mixing breastfeeding and expressing

If you mix breastfeeding with bottle feeding expressed milk, your baby will benefit from having breastmilk at every feed. You will also be able to use expressed milk later so your partner or family members can share the feeds. See our guide to expressing for more on how to store expressed breast milk.

You are also less likely to have problems with becoming engorged and getting mastitis. However, some mums find expressing tricky and it can be tiring.

Mixing breastfeeding and formula feeding

If you decide to mix formula feeding with breastfeeding you might find that your body does not produce enough milk – especially if you introduce this method too quickly. See mixed feeding challenges to find out more.

However, some mums prefer this method because they are reassured that their baby is getting enough to eat whilst still benefitting from having breastmilk.

Mixing expressing and formula feeding

If you decide to mix bottle feeding expressed breast milk along with infant formula, your baby will benefit from having breast milk and you can share the feeding with a partner or other family member.

Expressing can take time and effort to get the hang of at first and you will need to buy equipment such as sterilisers and bottles and pumps (if you decide not to hand express).

However, some mums prefer this method because they are reassured that their baby is getting enough to eat whilst still benefitting from having breastmilk.

Mixing breastfeeding, expressing and formula feeding

Some parents choose to combine breastfeeding, expressing and formula feeding. This means that your baby benefits from having breastmilk, you are more likely to produce enough milk because you're expressing between feeds and your partner or other family member can help out with feeds when you use formula.

However, it can be very complicated, time consuming and tiring to combine all 3 methods and you will have to buy equipment such as sterilisers, bottles and pumps (if you decide not to hand express).

Did you know?

If you have decided to cut down on breastfeeding, do this gradually to minimise the risk of mastitis.

Hints and tips when starting mixed feeding

If you have decided to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, here are some hints and tips that could help you:

  • go slowly – it may take a while for your baby to get used to a change in feeding
  • introduce the first bottle feed when your baby is calm and not hungry
  • use a slow-flow teat to mimic the flow when breastfeeding
  • express your milk regularly between bottle feeds to help maintain your milk supply – read about expressing your breast milk
  • when bottle feeding, try to copy the positions you would use when breastfeeding – check out our guide to breastfeeding positions for more help

You may be worried that your baby is not getting enough breast milk and not quite reaching the targets in your red book (your child's personal health record), but remember all babies grow at their own rate and in most cases, they will catch up.

If you're worried about any aspect of breastfeeding or bottle feeding, talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.

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