Welcoming a new baby into the world is one of the most exciting times for any new parents, but it can also be one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life, and no topic is more confusing than choosing how to feed your baby.
Many parents and health professionals have long believed that feeding options can only be either breast or bottle feeding and that parents are unable to combine the two techniques. Historically this may have been true as there was a recognised confusion between feeding styles when parents tried to get their newborn to alternate between the two.
However, many parents don’t realise that combination feeding, the option to combine both breast and bottle feeding is now back on the table and easier than ever.
The most important consideration when planning to combination feed is the choice of teat. When babies feed from the breast they use their tongue on the underside of the nipple to massage the milk from the breast (a technique known as peristaltic tongue movement). Traditionally when offered a bottle a baby would have to use a suction style of feeding, similar to drinking through a straw. This is a totally different technique to feeding at the breast and if we’re honest quite easy for a baby as they don’t have to do much work to get the milk, as opposed to feeding at the breast which takes a degree of tongue work from them. For this reason, many babies would then refuse to go back to the breast, which in turn would bring the breastfeeding journey to an end.
Fast forward a number of years and developments have been made with teats designed to help your baby mimic the same technique as if they were breastfeeding. MAM’s Easy Start Bottle with Skin Soft Teat, is flexible and offers your baby a comfortable feed. Other benefits include the anti-colic feature, which allows the bottle to vent from the base rather than the top of the bottle. The base vented design has been shown to reduce the risk of colic and it also has the handy self-sterilising function, which makes feeding your baby expressed breastmilk super quick and easy, whether at home or away.
How you choose to combination feed will very much depend on whether you intend to feed expressed breastmilk or formula milk with the bottle as well as which feeds you want to be a bottle feed. If you are intending on combining breastfeeding with formula feeds and you know you want for example the 8pm feed to always be a formula feed, then you can follow this routine from birth as your body will adapt and adjust to produce less milk at this time each day. If however, you want to feed expressed breastmilk with the bottle then you will need to focus on establishing your milk supply and feeding baby exclusively at the breast after birth. After this, you can then start to introduce a pump to express your milk. If you want to pump expressed breastmilk for a daytime feed then pump after the first feed of the morning, as breastmilk supply is always slightly more at this time of day. That said, if you want to pump for a night-time or evening feed then always pump in the evening as your breastmilk in the evening contains a higher concentration of melatonin in the evening and during the night, which helps to induce sleep.
Combination feeding offers many benefits for parents and baby, including the ability to involve your partner in feeding your baby and allowing the mother to venture outside for dinner with friends or family, visit the hairdressers or to return to work. It also promotes bonding between your baby and partner or other family members.
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Written by: Katie Hilton is MAM’s Health Expert Visitor & Midwife who has expertise in labour delivery, postnatal and public/family health settings within both the hospital and community. Her specialist areas include infant feeding, sleep and child development.