Combination feeding involves continuing to nurse baby at the breast for some feedings while introducing supplemental bottles of formula at other times of the day. This practice -- especially popular with working moms who have difficulty pumping -- has both risks and benefits to consider. We asked Rebecca Charlton, M.P.H., R.D., C.L.E., a clinical dietitian and lactation educator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, for her insights.
Breast milk is best for baby, but “If you’re feeling like you’re having so much trouble pumping that you’re going to quit breastfeeding altogether, combination feeding is a good option. We’d much rather see a baby who is getting some breast milk than no breast milk,” advises Charlton.
Feeding your baby too much formula too early in life can affect your milk supply. But exclusively breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks should get your milk supply well-established. If you stay focused in those first few weeks, you can eventually vary the timing of your feeds and, Charlton assures, “Your body will still produce milk.”
If you know you’ll want to combination feed when you return to work, you can let baby experiment with a bottle, even as you’re actively establishing that milk supply. Bottle training, explains Charlton, can start at about 4 weeks or later, ideally with another family member occasionally offering baby a bottle with just a smidgen (2 ounces or less) of pumped breast milk or formula after you’ve already fed baby at the breast. It’s not about providing baby with another meal. “Just let your baby play with the bottle so she can learn how that compression happens.”