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How to Combine Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding

Best of Both Worlds

Many women have a difficult time nursing their babies. Health, circumstances, or economic reasons may present an insurmountable barrier. And some women simply choose not to fully breastfeed. But combining breastfeeding and bottle can work.

Dr. Spock, the well-known author of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, agrees, saying, “Combining breast and bottle is useful if you are planning to return to a job, want your partner to be able to take a more active role in feeding, or can’t produce enough milk to completely satisfy your baby.”

Here’s a look at three common reasons to combine breastfeeding and bottle. And as these stories from mom’s who’ve found success relate, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision.

Returning to Work

This was the case for Anne, a new mom who needed to return to work. A busy physician in a solo practice, Anne planned to go back to work only a month after giving birth to her first child. As a healthcare expert, she knew all about the benefits of breastfeeding. Yet given the pressures of her schedule, Anne reluctantly acknowledged that she could pump only once during lunch.

With the help of a supportive lactation consultant, Anne worked out a plan that would allow her to combine breast and bottle feeding. For the first three weeks after giving birth, Anne exclusively breastfed to build a good milk supply. One week before her planned return to work, Anne began offering formula during two of the baby’s daily feedings.

Now while Anne works, the nanny feeds bottles of pumped milk and formula. At the end of each day, snuggling in the rocking chair helps Anne and her baby reconnect in a special way. Anne’s milk supply has adjusted to her schedule, and she is happy that she is practicing what she preaches.

Are you also interested in combining breast and bottle for your baby? If so, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Before introducing formula or a bottle with breast milk, be sure to wait until breastfeeding is well established (this usually takes about five to six weeks postpartum). Waiting will help reduce your baby’s chances of developing nipple confusion or establishing a bottle preference.
  • If you are going to give formula at the same feed as breastfeeding (for example, if you’re not producing enough milk), breastfeed first to keep up your supply.
  • Use a breast pump to keep up your milk supply. Try pumping before you go to bed at night or first thing in the morning; some doctors also recommend pumping before a nursing session. Since breastmilk supply depends on the laws of supply and demand, you can “trick” your body into producing more milk by employing the use of a pump.

Inducing Milk Supply for Your Adopted Baby

When Jackie and Ken learned that it was possible to induce a milk supply for the baby they planned to adopt, they knew that this was something they wanted to do. They talked with their family doctor, ordered a book from La Leche League International, and rented a breast pump.

Two months later, a beautiful baby boy came into their lives. Jackie had worked very hard to stimulate her milk production, but there was not enough to fully nourish the baby. At first she grieved, but the local La Leche League group that she attended reminded Jackie that the love she shared while nursing her son was more important than the amount of milk she produced. Jackie continued to enjoy breastfeeding her little boy for many months and accepted that the supplemental bottles she also relied on were not a sign of failure.

Inducing milk is something women have done for ages. Even women who’ve not birthed a baby may induce milk supply with a combination of pumping and expression of the breasts and/or medication. According to the La Leche League, frequent double pumping (pumping both breasts simultaneously) is the best way to induce milk supply.

Managing Your New Life with Baby

Struggling to manage baby and the necessities of day-to-day life can be difficult. Whether you’re a 30-something, second-time, working mother in a successful marriage, or a single, first-time mom, the challenge remains.

Corinne was only 16 when she became pregnant for the first time. Her family was anxious that she complete high school and they planned for her to return to class as soon as possible after giving birth. Corinne enrolled in an innovative program that provided on-site daycare for students with children. While touring the daycare center, Corrine was surprised to observe a girl her own age breastfeeding. She asked her social worker about breastfeeding and was intrigued to learn that breastfeeding would help her baby be healthier and it might help her get her figure back sooner. She worried that her boyfriend might feel left out if he couldn’t feed the baby, so the social worker suggested that she consider partial breastfeeding if she didn’t feel she could commit to full breastfeeding.

Today, Corrine is a breastfeeding mother and her boyfriend and family helps with bottle feedings. Corrine is convinced that her perseverance with breastfeeding is why her daughter seldom gets the runny noses or tummy aches that the other babies in the daycare have.

A mother for the third time, Mary’s newborn arrived four weeks premature. With a four-year-old and an 18-month-old toddler at home, Mary felt torn and overwhelmed. She had exclusively breastfed her two older children, but spending time at the hospital trying to nurse her tiny daughter meant added stress for her other children. And pumping seemed impossible to fit into her exhausting schedule; by the time her baby was released from the special care nursery, Mary’s milk supply was low.

While some family members urged Mary to just forget about breastfeeding, a sympathetic neighbor told her something that made a lot of sense: “Some breastfeeding is better than no breastfeeding.” Mary’s neighbor urged her to continue to nurse the baby, even if she did give a bottle of formula afterwards.

As she grew and gained strength, the baby began to breastfeed more vigorously. Mary was surprised to discover that her milk supply improved. While her supply never increased to the point that she could totally discontinue formula, Mary discovered that she was able to nurse during the night feedings. With such a busy family, she came to enjoy the peaceful times spent breastfeeding the baby in the quiet, dark house. And her husband was grateful not to have to get up in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle!

Breastfeeding does have a dose-related response. This is a fancy way of saying “more is better.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding for optimal infant nutrition. But if circumstances prohibit you from nursing for this long, don’t let mother’s guilt get a hold of you. Know that human milk is so valuable for babies that even some is better than none.

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