How do you supplement breastmilk with formula?

All over the world, countless mums experience the pressure of wanting to nourish their babies with their own breast milk, but feeling unable to do so for one reason or another. Understandably then, it can be equally frustrating, and even daunting, to get your little one adjusted to a new formula feeding routine when he or she is accustomed to drinking breast milk. But don’t worry. We at Yellodoor know how hard a change in routine can be, and wish to help you and your baby make the smoothest transition possible. That is why we’re here to fill you in on the facts about supplementing breast milk with formula, so that you and your baby can get off on the right foot towards creating a feeding arrangement that works best for you both.

Supplementing Breast Milk With Formula

If you’re wondering is it OK to breastfeed and formula feed, the answer is usually yes, though there are a few caveats.

First and foremost, you’ll want to assess why you want to supplement your breastfed baby with formula in the first place.

Some women are going back to work, some want the other parent or caregiver to have the chance to get in on feeds, some have underlying health issues and some have low breast milk supply. Every woman is different and will have different reasons for why they wish to supplement formula to their breast milk.

Unfortunately, however, many women wish to supplement their breast milk with formula simply because they believe they aren’t producing enough breast milk, even when they actually are.

In order to know for sure, talk to your paediatrician. He or she may have you feed the child at an appointment and weigh the child before and after to assess the amount of milk they’re actually taking in.

In addition, there are a few other ways that you, along with your paediatrician, could potentially determine if your baby is actually getting enough milk.

Watch for:

  • Swallowing Sounds
  • Adequate Weight Gain
  • Having Plenty of Wet and Dirty Nappies


How to Start Supplementing With Formula

Supplementing with formula isn’t as hard as it may seem. Yet there are a few things you’ll want to consider before doing so.

First, you’ll want to consider your current milk supply. Because adding formula to your baby’s feeding routine has the potential to diminish your supply, you’ll want to be very careful about how quickly, and how often, you’re introducing formula bottles.

Aside from waiting until your baby is about 4 weeks of age but younger than 8 weeks of age, you’ll also want to ensure that you only introduce one bottle of formula per day. This not only helps reduce the risk of engorgement for you, but will also be easier on your child’s tummy as he or she adjusts. Introducing more than one bottle a day could diminish your supply for when you do want to nurse, which may be counterproductive, especially if you are supplementing for reasons of increasing supply.

If you notice that your supply is beginning to drop, try pumping before a formula feed and storing the milk for later. But be careful. For mamas trying to increase their supply as baby feeds on formula, pumping too much may have the opposite effect as your baby is more capable of removing milk and signalling your breasts to create more milk than a pump would be. So, just be careful not to overuse a pump in this instance. You may also consider checking out lactation support snacks and teas available over-the-counter.

If you’re a mum going back to work, try slowly replacing some daytime nursing sessions with formula bottles before your maternity leave ends. This will help eliminate your daytime supply so that you aren’t uncomfortably engorged while in the office. There’s also the added advantage of preparing your baby for the transition to nursing before you leave and after you arrive home, and receiving formula bottles throughout the day.


How to Combine Breastfeeding and Formula

No matter how you slice it, there is no single formula that exists that is better than breast milk for babies. Breast milk contains antibodies, good bacteria and digestive enzymes that build your baby’s immune system and keep him or her healthy. It is for this reason that the best way to supplement with formula is to do so in tandem with breast milk. There are a few ways you could go about this.

Some mums prefer to formula feed at night and breastfeed during the day, while some wish to formula feed during the day and breastfeed at night. But the most common, and even most controversial, method for how to combine breastfeeding and formula besides alternating breast milk and formula is to mix breast milk and formula in the same bottle.

There are a few out there who staunchly oppose this method for supplementation, and possibly, for good reason. Not only do you run the risk of wasting breast milk if your baby doesn’t finish the bottle, but some suggest that formula can even dampen the health benefits of breast milk when combined in the same bottle.

To combat this, you can make two separate bottles, one of formula and one of breast milk, and start by feeding the breast milk bottle first and “topping up” with formula.

On the other hand, there are many mums that have found great success with combining formula and breast milk in one bottle. There is evidence that suggests that feeding breast milk and formula in the same bottle actually helps babies to digest the formula better, as the compounds, antibodies and enzymes in the breast milk aid your baby in being able to digest the formula much better.

If you do decide to mix breast milk and formula in one bottle, you’ll want to pay attention to the breast milk to formula ratio when doing it. To start, we recommend not putting more than a quarter to half of formula in the bottle, and making the rest of the mixture breast milk. Remember, to only introduce a bottle like this once a day before gradually increasing the formula to breast milk ratio.

If using cold or frozen breast milk, you may wish to warm your formula and breast milk mixture gently, either using a bottle warmer or by using hot tap water in a mug for a few minutes. Never use a microwave as this could create hot pockets that could scorch your baby. Be sure to do all of this with freshly washed or sanitised hands to prevent the spread of germs to your little one.

When preparing a mixed bottle for your baby, it is imperative that you mix the formula according to the directions with clean water first before adding your breast milk. Neglecting to do so could lead to issues with the nutritive content of the formula, including an overabundance of compounds in your baby’s kidneys and digestive system, leading to serious issues.

For an even more in-depth analysis of combining breast milk with formula, check out our post called Mixing Baby Formula and Breast Milk: Is It Good For Your Baby.


What to Do If Your Baby Won’t Take Formula

If you’ve tried introducing your infant to formula, and you are noticing that your breastfed baby won’t take it, you have a few options to consider.

First, consult with your paediatrician about the best kind of formula to choose for your baby. There are many formula types out there and several organic versions of formula available.

There is also this highly rated formula blend available on Amazon enriched with Omega-3’s and is said to mimic breast milk in many ways.

You may also try the method of combining breast milk and formula in the same bottle as mentioned above. Doing so will improve the taste of the formula for your little one, and make it more palatable.

Also, be sure to introduce the formula no later than two months of age to your infant, as doing it any later may result in your baby refusing formula all together due to its unfamiliar taste.


Supplementing Breast Milk with Formula: A Transition to Formula May Require the Assistance of a Doctor

To summarise, there is no doubt that breast milk is the way to go to supply your baby with the most in nutrition and optimal health. Nevertheless, when the situation presents itself, it may be appropriate to make the switch and begin to supplement breast milk with formula.

No matter which route you choose, always be sure to consult with a paediatrician throughout the process to make sure that your baby is adjusting to the change in his or her feeding routine appropriately. If you notice that your baby seems to be more irritable, is sleeping less, is having major mood changes or if you notice other concerning signs, stop giving your baby that formula and talk to your local healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Want even more tips for supplementing breast milk with formula? You may wish to peruse this online resource for other ideas on how to feed your breastfed baby with formula.

Check out the advantages and disadvantages of formula and breast milk on our blog.