Mixed feeding

Regardless of whether a mother exclusively breastfeeds, exclusively uses formula or does a combination (mixed feeding), she has done her very best and has made decisions that were right at the time, based on the support and information she had available to her.

Many mothers who attend Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) local support groups or contact the Breastfeeding Helpline mix feed their baby.

It is important for all mothers to find a supportive person with whom to share their feelings. ABA counsellors on the Breastfeeding Helpline can help to reassure mothers that they can have a close bond with their child, whether breastfed, mixed fed or formula-fed. ABA counsellors are mothers themselves who have breastfed their own babies, but many of them have not found breastfeeding to be a breeze. Many struggled, found themselves relying on formula, or weaned before they were ready, which is what prompted them to train to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Some of the reasons why mothers mix feed include:

·         Concern about her baby’s weight gain

·         Concern about her breastmilk supply

·         She is unable to produce a full milk supply. A small percentage of mothers are unable to produce enough breastmilk to be able to exclusively breastfeed their baby. For example, a mother may have inadequate milk producing tissue in her breasts, perhaps due to previous breast reduction, or an undiagnosed thyroid condition can cause low supply. In these situations mothers may still be able to provide some breastmilk to their baby by mixed feeding or she may be able to source donor milk. The ‘Galactagogues (substances claimed to increase supply) article on this website may be helpful

·         Concerns about breastfeeding in public

·         Returning to work

·         A temporary measure while she works on building her supply .

ABA supports mothers to make informed choices about how they feed their baby. These choices may include the use of donor milk. For more information see the ‘Donor milk position statement and the ‘When breastfeeding doesn’t work out’ article on this website.

When a mother is mixed feeding, she may find it helpful to work closely with a child health expert (eg a child health nurse) and a breastfeeding expert (eg an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. These people can help her work out how much formula to use and how to maximise her breastmilk supply. If milk supply is an issue, an ABA counsellor on the Breastfeeding Helpline can help with suggestions such as use of a breastfeeding supplementer, or to help work out a plan of more frequent feeding and/or expressing. Also see ‘A caregiver’s guide to the breastfed baby for helpful information about pacing bottle-feeds for example.

Despite people in Australia being fortunate in having reliable access to clean water and electricity, contamination of formula is still possible. It is also very important that powdered milks are made up correctly. Therefore, it is important to know how to prepare it safely. See the ‘Guide to feeding your baby formula’ article on this website.

In terms of which formula to use, with the marketing tactics of formula companies, it is difficult for mothers to access unbiased sources of information. Even though many claim to be superior for eye, brain or immune development, rest assured that mothers are not doing their baby a disservice by choosing one brand over another (unless medically indicated). It is preferable to use an formula with a lower protein level. Changing to a different formula needs to be done carefully because different formula have different preparation instructions.1

When it comes to feeding your baby, congratulate yourself for what you have been able to achieve in regards to breastfeeding, not what you haven’t been able to achieve. You may find it reassuring to look at the ‘How long should I breastfeed my baby? article on this website. And remember, whether your child is nourished via your breast, a bottle or both, you are the best mother he could ever have.

ABA welcomes any mother, no matter how her child is fed.

References

1.     National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines URL: www.eatforhealth.gov.au Accessed 20/02/13

© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2014