Combining Breast and Bottle
Is it possible to breastfeed my baby and give a bottle? The answer is yes, a baby can be given breast milk and formula, or they can be given expressed breast milk via bottle. Some mums are certain about their preferences for feeding right from the beginning, but there are lots of women who are undecided or would like to do both or even change their minds after starting out.
Are There Any Benefits?
There are a number of benefits to introducing a bottle alongside breastfeeding. Firstly, it does allow you to have a bit of freedom to get out for an hour or two, or to have a rest or even a well-deserved glass of wine with dinner. In particular, if your partner or a family member can give the bottle at the evening feed, then it does provide the opportunity for you to get to bed earlier and get a longer period of sleep before the next feed. It also allows your partner to be more involved and enjoy bonding and cuddles with your baby at feed times.
Some women decide to supplement with formula when their baby needs additional feeds, perhaps during a growth spurt, and in situations like this combining breast and bottle is an ideal way to help mum regain her energy. Getting good rest can help to maintain a good supply of milk. However, remember that the purpose of additional feeds during growth spurts is to stimulate greater milk production from your breasts, if you substitute these feeds with formula it is quite likely that your milk supply will fail to keep up with the baby's requirements, and you will either have to work hard at increasing your supply again, or continue to supplement your breastfeeding routine with formula.
When Could I Introduce a Bottle?
Once you feel happy that breastfeeding is established, think about introducing a bottle. Some babies are happy to alternate between breast and bottle, yet others find the change confusing. Feeding from a bottle requires a very different tongue and jaw action that can be difficult for a breastfed baby to master. Every baby is different but in general most people agree that it is best to breastfeed exclusively for the first two to three weeks, and then to introduce a bottle gradually. Introducing a bottle before this time may lead to the baby favouring the bottle as the sucking action required can be easier.
If you wait, though, you'll probably have a tougher time. Many parents introduce a bottle once breastfeeding is established with relative ease. However, many have also reported difficulty with getting a baby to accept a bottle if the introduction is left later than 6 weeks. A breastfed baby will initially balk at a bottle, because human flesh is all that his mouth knows and expects. He's likely to roll the teat in his mouth and won't know how to suck or latch on. The reverse would be true as well, although the biggest difficulty in going from bottle to breast feeding is that your milk supply may have decreased if you haven't been expressing. It is possible to get your supply back up to where you need it to be but it can be hard work..If a baby is not used to the feeling of his mother's nipples then he won't instinctively know how to latch on. If you're not sure about how you want to feed your baby, it is easier to start with breastfeeding and give yourself the option of using a bottle in the following weeks. Of course, there are many babies who are breastfed and not given a bottle until several months later, whilst the introduction of a bottle is then often harder, it can be done (see our Weaning from Breast to Bottle section.)
Once a feeding pattern is established and decisions have been made about the method of feeding, most mums and their babies find that they can easily combine breast and bottle providing a happy balance for them both.