When it comes to feeding your baby, its not always a simple question of only breastfeeding or only bottlefeeding; many parents want to do a combination of both. Combination feeding usually means mixing breastfeeding with the occasional bottle of either expressed breastmilk or formula milk. This article gives professional advise for feeding a breastfed baby with a bottle.

Many parents choose to go down the route of mixed feeding for a whole variety of reasons including returning to work soon after birth, social commitments and wanting friends and family to play a part in feeding of the baby. If you’re wanting to go down the route of combination feeding, so combining breast with bottle it’s best to focus on feeding exclusively at the breast for the first 6-8 weeks after birth to give your body time to regulate your milk supply and for both you and baby to become comfortable and confident with the techniques associated with breastfeeding. After this time, you can then think about introducing a bottle so that your baby is able to effectively feed from both breast and bottle.

Introduce the bottle gradually

If you’ve decided you want to cut down on breastfeeds and introduce some formula feeds, both you and your baby will adjust more easily if you reduce the number of feeds gradually. You can offer a formula feed before, during, after or instead of a breastfeed, but it’s always best to take it slowly when reducing the number of breastfeeds and don’t choose a feed which is fundamental to part of your baby’s daily routine, for example the last feed at night or first feed of the morning. You’ll find the easiest feeds to drop are either mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Gradually cutting down on the number of breastfeeds reduces the risk of your breasts becoming uncomfortably engorged and leaky. It will also reduce the risk of developing mastitis.

Your baby will still enjoy the benefits of breastmilk, even if you’re no longer exclusively breastfeeding. For example, little one will still gain antibodies that protect against infection, even more so if you’re feeding expressed breastmilk via a bottle.

If you’ve decided to combination feed using formula then initially it might be helpful to purchase ready-made formula in a carton until you know exactly which brand suits your baby’s needs. Ready-made formula is also really easy to use and warm with no messing around boiling kettles and making bottles.

Ensure the right milk temperature

When feeding your breastfed baby with a bottle it’s important to ensure the milk temperature is similar to the temperature of milk from the breasts, which is around 37C. Using something such as the Milkymeter to warm either your expressed breastmilk or formula is ideal as you can then have the peace of mind that the milk is the ideal temperature to feed your baby and should be easily accepted.

Paced responsive feeding

When introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby it’s best to use a paced responsive technique of feeding, this style of feeding is on-demand and enables your baby to take the lead. It encourages them to use the same techniques as feeding at the breast and pace the feed to their needs. Paced responsive feeding has also been shown to help develop a baby’s hand eye co-ordination, social skills and self-regulation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in assisting a baby to switch easily between breast and bottle. You might find it useful for the first few feeds to have someone other than mum to feed your baby, little one might become anxious and upset when not offered the breast by mum, so someone such as your partner, friend or family member is ideal.

When first offering a bottle choose a time when your baby is relaxed and happy, rather than when little one is very hungry. Try softening the teat with warm, boiled water before feeding, you might also find you need to switch between a couple of different bottles and teats before you find one your baby enjoys feeding from. You can also try to hold your baby in different positions for feeding, ideally not a position similar to when breastfeeding as we want your little one to get used to a new style of feeding. If your baby is refusing to take the bottle you can try doing a dream feed late at night when baby is half asleep or alternatively you can try breastfeeding for the first 5 minutes before switching to the bottle. If bottles really aren’t your baby’s thing then consider using something such as a cup feed or introducing a trainer cup from four months of age.