You don’t necessarily have to choose between breast and bottle – some mums manage to combine both. You just have to decide if it could work for your baby and you
The expert advice is to exclusively breastfeed babies for six months and then continue while solid foods are introduced. Breastfeeding helps protect your baby against all kinds of illnesses – and while any amount is good for your baby, the longer you do it, the more protection they get.
If you’re planning to introduce formula due to problems with breastfeeding, see if you can tackle the problem first, or try speaking to your health visitor or breastfeeding advisor in case they can help.
Once you decide to introduce formula, your own milk production will decrease (especially in the first six weeks), so it’s worth giving it some thought before you go ahead.
Consider expressing breast milk
Some women decide to introduce bottles to give them a break and let their partner take over some of the feeding duties. If that’s the case, consider expressing breast milk.
There are gentle pumps that make the job easier, and that way your baby can continue to get all the health benefits of breast milk while you also get some rest. Plus, doing it this way means you won’t diminish your milk supply.
Introducing formula milk
If you decide to mix-feed your baby it’s generally advised to breastfeed for several weeks before a bottle is introduced. That way, your milk supply is well-established and your baby has time to master his breastfeeding technique.
When you start to replace some breastfeeds with formula, do so gradually. For example, replace just one nursing session with a bottle for the first week – this will give your body time to adapt as it reduces milk supply.
Helping your baby make the switch
Bottle feeding requires a different technique to breastfeeding on the part of your baby – and while some infants find it easy to make the switch, others can take longer. It’s a good idea to give the first few bottles when your baby is relaxed and not very hungry.
It may also help to have someone else give them the bottle – as the smell of you and your breast milk can be very distracting.
You could also try expressing some breast milk first – that way your baby can get used to the feel of the bottle before you introduce formula.
If you change your mind…
Breastfeeding works on a demand-and-supply basis – the more you nurse your baby, the more milk you produce. Once you start breastfeeding less, you will produce less milk – but it is possible to go back to nursing and increase supply if you change your mind.
Your health visitor or breastfeeding advisor will be able to help.