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How to Supplement with Formula

Picture this – your baby, content and thriving, getting all the needed nutrients as you seamlessly blend breast milk and formula feeding together. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? But how do you achieve that perfect harmony between breast milk and baby formula?

Whether you're grappling with milk supply concerns or seeking flexibility, this article is your go-to guide. We'll dive into why, when, and how to supplement with formula effectively without compromising your breastfeeding journey!

From choosing the right formula to combining breast milk and formula seamlessly, we've got all bases covered to ensure your little one's nutritional needs are met every step of the way.

Understanding Supplementing Breast Milk with Formula

The first thing all new parents learn is that breast milk is the ideal feeding option for an infant. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of your baby's life. From the 6 month mark, you can begin combining breastfeeding with appropriate supplementary foods.

Although exclusive breastfeeding is the ideal, the reality is that it isn't always an option. That's when adding formula feedings might be an optimal solution. Infant formula is designed to mimic breast milk. Thus, it contains all the essential nutrients to ensure your baby's healthy growth.

Luckily, supplementing with formula can also offer the best of both worlds. Depending on what works best for your family, you can either switch between breastfeeding and bottle feeding or mix breast milk with formula to meet your baby's nutritional needs.

For many parents, these are the reasons why they switch to combo feeding:

1. Issues with Low Milk Supply

Many mothers experience reduced breast milk production, which can mean their babies aren't getting enough milk. Low milk supply can be caused by several factors, including health issues, the mother's diet, taking certain medications, stress, and other factors.

It's crucial to talk to a medical professional if your body isn't producing enough milk so you can determine the cause. And remember, a lactation consultant can help work with you to boost or maintain your supply alongside supplemental feeding!

2. Returning to Work or Lifestyle Choices

Many mothers who return to work or have other commitments find it challenging to continue breastfeeding exclusively because of things like time constraints, scheduling and job demands. Supplementing breast milk with baby formula can help working mothers provide proper nutrition for their little ones when unable to breastfeed.

3. Sharing Feeding Responsibilities

Introducing infant formula is a great way for other caregivers to participate in feeding routines. Not only can this aid in reducing pressure from the new mother, but it may also help other family members bond with the baby during feedings.

4. Taking Medications That Aren't Breastfeeding-Friendly

Sometimes, mothers have to give up on the nursing sessions (at least temporarily) when taking particular medications. This may include aspirin, codeine, decongestants, and herbal remedies. Typically, when doctors prescribe certain medications, they give a warning if those can't be combined with breastfeeding. And if you're taking something over-the-counter, always make sure to talk to a medical professional first!

Preparation and Mixing Techniques When Using Formula to Supplement Breastmilk

To supplement breast milk with baby formula effectively, you need to make sure you prepare formula correctly. After all, the end result may affect how your baby takes their bottle and, consequently, how much nutrition they receive. When shopping for supplemental formula, you will come across three types: powdered, concentrated liquid, and ready-to-feed formula. How you combine these with breast milk will vary depending on the type. 

How to Make Concentrated Liquid or Powdered Formula?

When preparing liquid concentrate or powder baby formula, you need to follow the manufacturer's instructions precisely. Changing the ratio of formula to water is unsafe as it will affect the nutritional value of your baby's bottles.

Infant formula is advised to mix with safe drinking water. Most parents prefer boiling clean water for about 5 minutes and letting it cool, as this method is cost-efficient and simple. Also, you should always mix formula first, and only then add it to breast milk.

Adding breast milk separately is key because this ensures you won’t change the nutritional content of the formula. And here's another important rule to remember: you shouldn't use breast milk in place of water to mix concentrated or powdered infant formula.

An alternative method is to breastfeed your baby (or use pumped breast milk) and then give them a formula bottle if they're still hungry. If you have any questions regarding mixing milk with baby formula, a medical professional can provide guidance on best practices.

Things to Know About Ready-to-Feed Formula

With ready-to-feed formula, things are a bit easier. Because it already comes mixed in perfect proportions, it's safe to combine with breast milk as is. That being said, it does come at a higher cost, meaning you're paying for the convenience. Thankfully, it also leaves less room for error as you don't need to worry about preparing your baby's formula bottles with the correct ratios of formula to water.

Now regardless of what type you opt for, it's essential to discard any leftovers after 2 hours of your baby beginning feeding. Any formula left in the bottle after this point can harbor rapidly growing harmful bacteria.

Tips for Introducing Formula to a Breastfed Baby

If you decide to combine formula with your breastfeeding routine, there are several tips you can try to make the process seamless and stress-free for your baby:

1) Try to introduce changes gradually 🕒- If you prefer supplementing with formula instead of giving up breastfeeding, the best option is mixing prepared formula with expressed milk. And if you wish to switch to exclusive formula feeding, you need to reduce the amount of breastmilk in your baby's diet gradually.

Experts recommend substituting one breastfeeding session a day with a formula bottle and increasing the number of bottle feedings with time. This trick will also help you start producing less milk, reducing the chances of leaking or even mastitis.

2) Observe your baby and their responses 🔎 - On-demand feeding will help keep your little one satisfied and prevent overfeeding. Look for such signs of your baby being hungry as lip smacking, puckering, turning their head toward the bottle or breast, licking lips, and putting their hands to the mouth.

2) Offer formula in a familiar setting 🏠 - Feeding your baby in an environment they're used to can help them adjust to the changes in their diet better. Another helpful trick is maintaining skin-to-skin contact when feeding, even if it's a formula bottle. This will create a sense of security for your baby, helping them feel more at ease during a new feeding experience!

4) When combining breast milk with bottle feeding, make sure to express your milk regularly if you wish to continue breastfeeding 🤱 - Expressing can increase milk production thanks to the hormone prolactin. It may be easier to express by hand, to begin with. And if you need assistance, don't be shy to ask your midwife, health visitor, or lactation consultant to show you how.

5) Try to introduce combo feeding when your little one is feeling relaxed and calm 🧘‍♀️ - If your baby is fussy, it's best to postpone feeding changes and stick to familiar breastfeeding sessions.

6) Use proper positioning when bottle feeding 🍼 - Position the bottle at an angle rather than straight up and down. This way, the milk only comes out when your baby sucks. Let your baby take breaks from drinking when they need to.

You should also pay attention to the clues signalling that your baby is full, including closing their mouth, relaxing their hands (instead of grabbing the bottle, for example), and turning their head away from the bottle. Once you notice any of these signs, it's best to stop even if the bottle isn't empty yet.

Balancing Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

Managing a combined feeding schedule that includes both breast milk and formula can be tricky sometimes. But if you follow a few simple rules, you will be able to balance your combo feeding routines.

  1. It's best to breastfeed your baby in the mornings and evenings, arranging for bottle feeds in the interim. You will likely have more milk in the morning, so you can even pump some for the evening feeding.

  2. It's also important to be patient and give your baby plenty of time to adjust

  3. Try to maintain your milk supply by breastfeeding whenever you have the opportunity if you plan to continue combo feeding and don't wish to switch to formula exclusively. If your milk production seems to be decreasing, try to find opportunities to pump at work.

Finally, remember that your baby becomes accustomed to breastfeeding in many ways. That's why sometimes when using a bottle, they can sense that you may be withholding the “real” thing. In this case, you can let others (not just mom) try with the bottle for an easier transition into combination feeding.

Health Considerations and Monitoring When Using Formula to Supplement

When going from exclusively breastfeeding to supplementing, it's only natural to worry about how this change will affect your baby. And while combo feeding is completely safe, there are a few potential concerns you should be aware of:

Risk of Reducing Milk Supply

When your baby starts formula and suckles at your breast less frequently, you may notice that you aren't making enough breast milk. While this is completely normal, you can maintain a more steady supply if you express or pump breast milk regularly.

Nipple Confusion

Getting used to an artificial nipple, your little one may later experience difficulties in successful attachment at the breast. La Leche League International recommends using a slow-flow nipple and holding it more horizontally to mimic the real breast. Alternatively, you can try placing a nipple shield over your breast to mimic the firmer feel of the artificial nipple your baby is used to.

Formula Intolerance

Depending on your baby's health and digestive system, some formulas may be more challenging to tolerate. Look out for such signs as diarrhea, colic, trouble gaining weight, tummy pain and spit up. If any of these symptoms occur, make sure to speak to a medical professional to see if switching formula type will help or if there are other factors at play. 

How to Choose the Right Baby Formula for Supplementing

Another consideration to make when transitioning to combination feeding the choiec of formula. Fear not: once you familiarize yourself with the basics, things will get easier. And we will help you with that now!

Cow's Milk Formula 🐄

A popular choice among many parents is cow's milk formula. It's an excellent option for babies that don't have any digestion difficulties or feeding challenges. You could also try a cow's milk formula without added extra carbs like starch or maltodextrin, which makes such formulas extra gentle.

A good example is Kendamil Organic, which uses whole milk fats, is lactose based an palm oil free. It's also enriched with probiotics to aid digestive health.

Goat Milk Formula 🐐

Goat milk is an excellent option for babies with sensitivities to cow milk. With that said, it's still not suited for babies with cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Goat's milk formulas contain the A2 milk proteins, which are similar to the natural composition of breast milk.

Additionally, the A2 proteins are much more gentle on digestion. And if you're looking for suggestions, Holle Goat is a great option. This European formula uses clean and safe ingredients and is loaded with all the nutrients needed for your baby's healthy growth.

Digestive Supporting Ingredients 💗

You can also look for formulas that are enriched with pre and probiotics. Choosing this type can be a great way to support your baby’s gut health. An excellent example of such a formula is HiPP Dutch. It offers a unique blend of prebiotics and probiotic lactic acid culture originally extracted from real breast milk, making it a great breast milk-like option.

Just remember to discuss your with a medical professional before giving formula to your baby. A doctor can give you personalized advice based on your baby's specific needs which is the safest way to go about combination feeding!

FAQs: How to Supplement Breastfeeding with Formula

What is the best way to supplement with formula?

Most experts recommend nursing first to completely empty your breasts and then giving formula at the end of the feeding.

Is it OK to occasionally supplement with formula?

Yes. While human milk undoubtedly has plenty of health benefits, it's completely fine to combine it with supplemental feeding if that suits the needs of you and your baby.

How do you supplement with formula before milk comes in?

Unless your baby's doctor recommends it, avoid supplementing breastmilk with formula, at least until your milk supply has had a chance to develop, and both you and your baby are used to the concept of breastfeeding.

Will my milk dry up if I supplement with formula?

Occasionally feeding your baby with formula when you are away, for example won't be likely to affect your breastmilk supply. However, if you are supplementing with formula on a regular basis, your supply will drop unless you pump regularly.

Wrapping Up: How to Supplement with Formula Like a Pro

This new journey might seem a bit stressful, but as long as you are equipped with knowledge and have your baby's doctor by your side, your little one will be perfectly safe and happy. So remember to do your research and consult a medical professional, and you're all set to successfully supplement with infant formula!

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies. Before altering your baby's diet or feeding routine, consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations. The information in this article is strictly for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. 

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