Being a mom is a unique and fulfilling experience, marked by all kinds of stressful and wonderful choices and challenges. One of the most important decisions a new mother faces is how to feed her baby. While breastfeeding and formula feeding are often presented as two distinct options, many mothers choose a middle path – combination feeding. This approach combines the benefits of breast milk with the convenience of formula, creating a flexible feeding routine. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of combination feeding.
What is Combination Feeding?
Combination feeding, also known as mixed feeding or partial breastfeeding, refers to a feeding method in which a baby receives both breast milk and infant formula as sources of nourishment. In combination feeding, parents or caregivers offer breast milk and formula at different times or in various proportions to meet the baby’s nutritional needs. See our article The 5 Best Formulas for Supplementing While Breastfeeding for help on deciding which formula to use.
This approach is often chosen for various reasons, such as practicality, flexibility, or specific circumstances that may make exclusive breastfeeding challenging. Combination feeding allows parents to provide their baby with some of the benefits of breast milk while also incorporating the convenience and predictability of formula feeding.
Moms may choose to combination feed for various reasons such as not producing enough breast milk to meet baby’s nutritional needs, returning to work, medical reasons, shared feeding responsibilities between parents/caregivers, and personal choice. Parents can decide the frequency and timing of breastfeeds and formula feeds based on their circumstances.
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Pros of Combination Feeding
1. Flexibility – Main Pro of Combination Feeding Pros and Cons
One of the biggest pros on any list of combination feeding pros and cons is the flexibility it offers to both mom and the baby. It allows mothers to share the feeding responsibilities with other caregivers, reducing the pressure to be available for every feed. This flexibility can be particularly beneficial for working mothers or those with schedule challenges. For working mothers, combination feeding can help strike a balance between returning to work and providing breast milk for the baby. Parents can continue to breastfeed when they are available and use formula when they are at work or otherwise occupied.
Related article: Can I Mix Breast Milk and Formula? Yes, Here’s How.
2. Enhanced Bonding
Breastfeeding fosters a unique bond between a mother and her child, but formula feeding provides an opportunity for other family members, such as fathers or grandparents, to bond with the baby during feeding time. This shared responsibility can promote bonding and involvement from various family members, giving mom a break and creating a more supportive family environment.
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3. Increased Sleep
Babies tend to sleep for longer durations after a formula feed because formula takes longer to digest than breast milk. This can result in more extended periods of uninterrupted sleep for both the baby and the mother, promoting better rest and overall well-being. Formula is often more calorie-dense than breast milk. This higher caloric content can provide babies with the necessary energy to sleep for longer stretches before feeling hungry again.
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4. Getting the Nutrients Baby Needs
Formula feeding ensures that your baby receives a consistent and known quantity of nutrients with each feeding. This can provide peace of mind to parents who may be concerned about their baby’s nutritional intake, especially if they face challenges with breastfeeding. In cases where a baby has specific dietary requirements or medical conditions that necessitate a specialized formula (e.g., hypoallergenic formula for babies with allergies or specialized formulas for premature infants), formula feeding can provide a tailored solution to meet those needs.
Additionally, formula feeding allows parents and caregivers to control the exact amount of milk the baby consumes at each feeding. This control can help ensure that the baby receives an appropriate and consistent intake of calories and nutrients, which is particularly important for healthy growth.
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5. Improved Physical Health
Some medical conditions may prevent mothers from breastfeeding exclusively. Combination feeding allows mothers with these conditions to provide breast milk while supplementing with formula, ensuring their baby receives some of the unique benefits of breast milk. Also, many infant formulas are fortified with iron, a critical nutrient for a baby’s growth and development. Iron-fortified formula helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which can occur in babies who do not receive an adequate amount of iron from breast milk or other sources.
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Cons of Combination Feeding
1. Potential for Reduced Breast Milk Supply
The most common con when discussing combination feeding pros and cons is the possibility of reduced breast milk supply. When babies receive formula in addition to breast milk, they may not nurse as frequently, which can lead to decreased milk production over time. Breast milk production is largely driven by supply and demand. The more frequently a baby nurses at the breast, the more milk the mother’s body typically produces to meet the baby’s needs. When a baby receives formula in addition to breast milk, they may nurse less frequently, and this reduced demand for breast milk can lead to a decrease in milk production over time.
It’s important to note that not all mothers who practice combination feeding will experience a significant decrease in milk supply. Some may successfully balance breastfeeding and formula feeding without any issues. The impact on milk supply can vary widely among individuals, and it is influenced by factors such as the frequency and timing of formula supplementation, the baby’s breastfeeding habits, and the mom’s overall health.
Related article: How to Thicken Breast Milk Naturally – 4 Effective Methods!
2. Nipple Confusion
Babies can sometimes struggle to switch between breast and bottle, leading to nipple confusion. This confusion may result in difficulties latching onto the breast, which can be frustrating for both the baby and the mother. Babies may develop a preference for either the breast or the bottle nipple. If they strongly favor one method, they may resist the other, making it challenging for parents to switch between the two.
Additionally, bottle nipples often have a consistent flow rate, while the flow of milk from the breast varies throughout a feeding session. The baby may become accustomed to the steady flow from a bottle and find it frustrating when the breast milk does not flow as consistently. Conversely, some babies may prefer the faster flow from the breast and become frustrated with the slower flow from a bottle.
Related article: No Letdown When Pumping? Here’s 5 Helpful Tips.
3. Expense – Main Con of Combination Feeding Pros and Cons
Formula feeding can be expensive, especially when used in conjunction with breastfeeding. The cost of formula can add up over time, making it a financial consideration for many families. In some cases, parents may choose to supplement breastfeeding with specific types of formula, such as hypoallergenic or specialty formulas, which can be even more costly than standard infant formula.
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4. Emotional Strain
Some mothers may experience feelings of guilt or inadequacy when they are unable to exclusively breastfeed. The pressure to conform to societal expectations can be emotionally taxing for new mothers, causing unnecessary stress. Many new parents are exposed to societal and medical recommendations that promote breastfeeding as the “ideal” or “best” method of infant feeding due to its numerous health benefits. As a result, some mothers may feel immense pressure to exclusively breastfeed which can lead to feelings of guilt or inadequacy if they are unable to do so.
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Is it Good to Feed Baby Both Formula and Breast Milk?
The decision to pursue combination feeding, using both breast milk and formula, is a deeply personal one. It is essential to weigh the combination feeding pros and cons in the context of your unique circumstances, needs, and goals. It can be beneficial to feed baby both formula and breast milk if the combination feeding pros outweigh the cons in your specific situation.
Related article: 9 Signs Your Milk Supply is Decreasing & How to Fix It
Combination feeding allows parents to tailor their approach to their baby’s needs while maintaining a healthy balance in their own lives. It offers flexibility, enhances bonding, and provides assurance that the baby is receiving proper nutrition. However, it can also pose challenges, such as potential impacts on breast milk supply and societal pressures. Ultimately, the choice to breastfeed, formula feed, or combine the two should be made with confidence and without judgment, recognizing that what matters most is the well-being and happiness of both mom and baby.