Mixed Feeding: The Pros And Cons Of Mixed Feeding

Mixed Feeding: The Pros And Cons Of Mixed Feeding

Have you heard about mixed feeding and wondering what it is?

Are you breastfeeding and thinking mixed feeding might help your baby feel full?

When babies are fed a combination of breastmilk and formula, this is known as mixed feeding. 

Mixed Feeding: The Pros And Cons Of Mixed Feeding

There are various reasons why babies are mixed fed.

For example, a baby might not be getting enough milk from his mother alone.

Or a mother could be returning to work and unable to express breastmilk in the workplace.

This article focuses on combining breastmilk and formula. But it’s important to know formula isn’t the only option available. 

If a baby isn’t getting enough milk from his mother, donor milk is another option that parents might consider.

We know how important breastfeeding is for the health of mothers and babies.

You can read more in Benefits Of Breastfeeding – What Are They Exactly?.

Leading health organisations from around the world recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

Then parents can introduce solid foods while breastfeeding continues for at least one year.

Exclusive breastfeeding means the baby has only breastmilk. No other liquids or solids are given, not even water.

There are certain situations, however, where you might have to weigh up the risks against the benefits of mixed feeding.

If you’re in a situation where mixed feeding might be necessary, consider these 4 pros and 4 cons:

4 Pros

#1: Mixed Feeding Helps Babies To Be Fed Enough 

It’s important a baby is drinking enough enough milk to thrive. If a baby isn’t getting enough from his mother alone, supplementing can help.

If you’re concerned your baby isn’t getting enough milk, speak to your baby’s health care professionals about your baby’s needs.

It is important to use reliable signs (as opposed to unreliable signs) to tell whether or not your baby is getting enough with breastmilk alone.

Find out more about reliable signs and unreliable signs. 

Also, if your milk supply is low, there are ways that can help to increase it.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant is best placed to be able to help you with this.

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#2: Mixed Feeding Lets Your Partner Share The Feeding

Some couples view feeding as something a partner can share. It might help partners to bond with their babies and also help to share the load between the parents.

Of course, there are many ways for a partner to take care of a baby that don’t involve feeding.

Find out more in 8 Ways New Dads Can Bond Without A Bottle.

#3: Mixed Feeding Gives Breastfeeding Mothers A Break 

When a baby is mixed fed, the breastfeeding mother doesn’t need to be involved.

This can mean, as a breastfeeding mother, you can be doing something else, such as sleeping or doing some exercise.

Bear in mind, this is also possible even if you prefer not to give formula; you might be able to access donor milk for your baby. 

#4: Mixed Feeding Might Mean Breastfeeding Continues Longer

Feeding a baby doesn’t have to be only formula or only breastmilk.

It is beneficial for a baby to be fed even a small amount of breastmilk.

Instead of fully formula fed, babies who have mixed feeds will continue to breastfeed for longer. 

4 Cons

#1: Mixed Feeding Is More Work

Mixed feeding might seem to make the feeding journey easier.

But in reality, mixed feeding can create more work for parents.

When a baby is exclusively breastfed, there’s no need to buy formula, make it up, or sterilise bottles.

These tasks can be very time consuming, especially when you’re already juggling so much else. 

#2: Mixed Feeding Might Lower Supply

Breastmilk supply works on a ‘supply equals demand’ basis.

Babies who are fed formula might have less demand for breastmilk. 

Less demand will mean your breasts make less milk. Over time this can affect your milk supply. 

Obviously, giving formula less often reduces the impact on breastmilk supply and vice versa.

Expressing breastmilk when your baby has formula can help to reduce the impact on your supply. The milk you express can be saved to give to your baby later in place of formula. 

#3: Mixed Feeding Can Increase Risk Of Inflammatory Breast Conditions

Breastfeeding regularly, as your baby demands it, reduces the chances you’ll end up with sore or infected breasts. 

Inflammatory breast conditions such as engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis can be very painful and might interfere with successful breastfeeding. 

Skipping breastfeeds and giving formula instead means the milk (which is usually removed) stays in your breasts.

This increases the risk of inflammatory breast conditions.

#4: Mixed Feeding Can Increase Risk Of Breast Refusal

Feeding a baby by combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding increases the risk of a baby developing a preference for the bottle.

Mixed fed babies can become fussier with breastfeeds, or even refuse to breastfeed.

Reduce this risk by using a paced bottle feeding method.

Alternatively, you can try a different way to feed your baby formula, such as using a cup or breastfeeding supplementer, depending on your preference and circumstances.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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