There are a number of reasons why you might want to combine breast and bottle feeding, such as if you're returning to work, you want to share feeding with your partner or you are going to be away and someone else will be looking after your baby. Some mums also find it useful to be able to offer a top-up if their baby still seems hungry after a breastfeed.
When can you introduce a bottle?
Bottle feeding your baby in their early weeks isn’t really recommended as it can make it harder for you both to get used to breastfeeding, and using formula may reduce the amount of breastmilk produced due to a decrease in demand.
Once your breastfeeding routine is established (usually after about 4-6 weeks), you can either express some breastmilk or alternatively you can use formula milk, which can be given in a bottle to your baby whilst you are not around. You can then continue to breastfeed your baby for the rest of the time.
The best of both worlds
Being able to give occasional bottle feeds can make it easier to continue breastfeeding for longer. And if you are partially bottle feeding, continuing to offer your baby your breast whenever you can, will provide them with valuable nutrients and help protect their health. This can be particularly useful if your baby is attending day-care where there may be other children with coughs and colds.
Switching to bottle feeding
If you decide to finish breastfeeding it is best to gradually reduce the number of feeds that you are giving - as stopping suddenly can lead to painfully engorged breasts. Try reducing the number of breastfeeds you give to 2 feeds per day and your milk supply will gradually diminish, and you should be able to stop within 2 to 3 weeks.
A careful choice
If you’re thinking about combining breast and bottle or stopping breastfeeding, ask your health visitor, doctor or breastfeeding counsellor for advice first. They’ll be able to offer you help with choosing a formula, if that’s an option you’d like to have.
If you do decide to use formula milk to complement breastfeeding, choose a milk that is appropriate for the age of your baby and follow the instructions on pack for its preparation.