Nutrition solely based on breastfeeding for the first 6 months is the best for your baby, no arguing about that. Yet, sometimes the need arises for mixing formula with breast milk.
Your body doesn’t produce enough milk and you cannot keep up with your baby’s feeding demands. You have to go back to work and you do not have the time to nurse. You are exhausted and you need some rest. These are all legitimate reasons and there is no shame in supplementing your child’s diet with formula. How it should be done?
Choosing the right formula
The formula you are going to use must meet two basic criteria: it must be safe to use as well as effective in providing the baby all the nutrients her body needs. Therefore, before choosing which one to use, it is important to check who the producer is. Does it have a license to manufacture baby food? Does it have a standard mark? Does the company dedicate resources to scientific research? As a rule of thumb, go for the most well-known brands as they usually follow these necessary standards.
How to introduce new food to your baby?
Switching from breast milk to formula requires making your baby accustomed to a new form of feeding. She will have to use her mouth and tongue differently from the way she used them while she was sucking milk from your breast.
You should start practicing by offering the bottle just before the usual breastfeeding time when your baby is hungry, but not starved. You want her to have the patience to learn new things. It is also advisable to give the task to someone else in order not to confuse your baby. You are breastfeeding and your husband (grandpa, grandma or nanny) bottle feeds.
It is important that you remember that mixing formula with breast milk will demand that you keep on nursing or pumping regularly to preserve your milk supply.
One meal a day for a start
It is recommended starting with one bottle feeding a day for a week. Then you can increase the dosage to two meals a day while at the same time continuing breastfeeding or pumping so that your milk ducts won’t get clogged.
During bottle feeding, you should maintain eye contact with your baby. Some babies prefer to eat from a bottle in their familiar breastfeeding position. You should encourage it.
Pay close attention to how your infant reacts to the formula. Mixing formula with breast milk can generate side effects such as diarrhea, gases, or restlessness. Severe symptoms may indicate allergic reaction to cow’s milk. If you suspect that this is the case, consult your pediatrician.
How much does your baby need to eat?
How much should the baby eat? That is a question mothers always ask. It depends on the baby’s age, weight and appetite. A lactation consultant or your doctor can help you with that.
I suggest looking at the manufacturer’s instructions but remember that they are not meant for mixing formula with breast milk but for babies who are not breastfed at all. In any case, you do not need to push your baby to eat more than she wants. She knows best when it’s enough for her.
Dealing with the change from the mother’s point of view
It’s not often discussed, but weaning from breastfeeding may arouse strong emotions in you. It is a significant change even when it comes to supplementing with formula not all but some of your baby’s meals.
No matter how you look at it, things are not going to be the same. The bond between you and your child will never be that strong again. It may feel like you are letting her go by giving up something that made you and her one body. She can now ‘mange on her own’ and doesn’t need you anymore (of course it’s not true, but that’s how some mothers feel). Also remember that reducing the amount of breastfeeding, changes hormone levels, and this can also lead to depression. You shouldn’t feel shame to ask for help.
One final word
Mixing formula with breast milk marks a new reality for you and your baby. Like all changes, it can be hard in the beginning. But in time, both of you will get used to it and function perfectly normal in the new framework you have created for yourselves.