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Mixed feeding

Mixed feeding is when you combine breastfeeding with formula feeding. There are lots of reasons why you might choose to do this, but it’s important to remember that giving formula can have an impact on your milk production.

The amount of milk you produce is determined by the amount of milk removed, so the more your baby feeds the more milk you’ll make. If a baby fills up on formula, they will not want to breastfeed as much.

Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are different skills for babies, and it can be tricky for babies to swap between the two, especially in the early days.

Once breastfeeding is established, your supply is more stable. For many women, this happens after around six weeks. Giving the occasional bottle of expressed breastmilk or formula milk from that time should not have a big impact on your supply or your baby’s ability to breastfeed.

If you’re thinking about giving your baby some formula because you don’t think they’re getting enough breastmilk, talk to your health visitor as they’ll give you support to help you increase your supply of breastmilk.

Night time feeding

Some people think that giving a bottle last thing at night means that their baby will sleep better. In fact, there’s no evidence to suggest that this is true.

Night feeds are important to keep milk production going, especially in the early weeks. This is because the hormone responsible for breast milk production is at its highest levels at night.

If you’re finding yourself getting up at night to feed your baby a number of times, ask friends and family to give you some practical help so you can rest during the day. Before long, your baby will naturally start to go a little longer between feeds during the night.

Sometimes mums decide to start using formula milk so their partner can help feed the baby. You can also express your breastmilk and that can be given instead. Follow our tips for effective expressing here.

If you do decide to keep going with mixed feeding, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve allowed a few weeks for breastfeeding to become established before you introduce formula milk. You can manage this by keeping the amount of formula milk given to a minimum early on.

Overcoming breastfeeding problems

There are some situations when it might be necessary to give your baby extra milk.

This can be your expressed milk, but if that’s not possible then formula milk may be needed. Your health professional can help you manage this and support you to get back to fully breastfeeding, if that’s what you want to do. It’s important to remember any breastfeeding is better than none and to get help and support whenever you need it.

Giving your baby a bottle

Singing to baby

When giving your baby milk in a bottle remember:

  • Hold them close to you in a slightly upright position.
  • Invite them to open their mouth by rubbing the teat against their top lip.
  • Gently insert the teat into their mouth, keeping the bottle slightly tipped to prevent milk flowing too fast.

Follow their cues for when they want a break and don’t force them to take a whole feed if they don’t want to.

What about babies who refuse to take a bottle?

If your baby is refusing to feed from a bottle, try experimenting with different teats.

You could also try not heating the milk or holding your baby in a different position from the one you usually feed in. Perhaps ask another person, such as your partner, to give the bottle as they don’t associate them with breastfeeding.

If your baby gets upset when bottle feeding, leave it for a few days and try again. You could consider using a cup instead as they might manage this more easily.

Useful links

National breastfeeding helpline

Page last reviewed: 18-01-2021

Next review due: 18-01-2024