April 16, 2021

Fed is Best – A Guide to Combination Feeding

Naomi and her girls

By Naomi Saunders

Naomi is a school teacher from Cornwall, and Mum to 2 beautiful little girls. Following a difficult experience feeding her second baby Naomi has become an advocate of Combination Feeding and works with MAM to raise awareness of parents right to choose their own path when it comes to feeding.

Unrealistic Expectations

I, like many other first-time mums, envisioned motherhood to be an idyllic journey.  As for any unexpected bumps, I believed support would be available, most of it at the click of my fingers with a simple Google search.  After attending a very informative breastfeeding workshop I felt confident I knew how I would feed my baby.  At no point during my first pregnancy did I consider:

what I would do if I couldn’t breastfeed,…

how my baby would be fed by someone else if needed or what my baby would do when I went back to work.  I lived in my baby bubble, with no reason to burst it. No information was offered to me about why exclusively breastfeeding may not always be possible and therefore I had no reason to consider otherwise.

Crashing Into Reality

Once my daughter arrived I thoroughly enjoyed feeding her but I found my daughter being exclusively on the breast intense, feeds relying solely on myself and my partner feeling like a spare part. At 8 weeks old I made the choice to introduce formula and a bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P). A change welcomed by her father and a baby totally satisfied with both breast and formula. But as a mum, now unsure what I was doing. I was in no-man’s land.  With no workshops on bottle feeding or combination feeding, I had many unanswered questions.

Was my baby getting enough milk? Was she getting too much? Should I only breast feed at night?  

The only advice on offer?

“It’s better to breast feed, breast feed as much as possible”

However the addition of a bottle was bringing so many benefits to my family.  Caught in a whirlwind of myths, inaccurate information and no support, believing my milk was drying up and anxious about returning to work I moved to bottle feeding only. I was able to cut myself off from the world of breast feeding, stop awkward conversations about how I was feeding by simply replying “bottle” – which meant people kept “breast opinions” to themselves.  Was I happy? Not really.

Second Baby, Second Chance

baby lily

This sadness about how I fed her stayed with me for a long time. Did I feel like a failure? Yes.  Should I have? Absolutely not.  Being a mum is the hardest job in the world. Even years on from my first daughter the judgement and stigma around feeding is still rife and so damaging for first time mums who don’t know what they want. I still found it shocking during the first weeks with my second daughter, that people I hardly knew would ask me “How are you feeding her?”.

More confident now, I reply “With milk”.

Second time round I was determined to breastfeed for longer.  I was more realistic though.  I knew as a mum of two with a full-time teaching job and admittedly someone who does enjoy the occasional sociable night out that exclusively breastfeeding would not be a sustainable or a viable option for me and my family. I searched for workshops, articles and asked health care providers about combination feeding.  Sadly 5 years later, little had changed. Once again, I went solo, but this time with a little more belief in my capabilities as a mum.

‘Bottle Confusion’

Online there is a lot of talk about ‘nipple confusion’, I think in my experience it was more like ‘bottle confusion’.  Again things were not going to plan. My daughter was refusing almost every bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P) on the market and with my return to work date looming I could feel the fear setting in.  Even saying to my partner

“When I find a bottle that works I am just going to bottle feed”.

It was happening again.  Convinced my only option would be to put her on a bottle and that babies simply could not alternate between the two.  Then a friend suggested a MAM bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P), at which point I was on product number 5!  I did not hesitate and ordered with next day delivery.

Breaking Point

It was after school pick up, the puppy had transformed herself into some sort of wild animal, my mum was visiting, my 6 year old climbing the walls, my baby grumpy and teething.  Nothing short of chaos (not organised chaos, just chaos) filled my household.  The bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P) had arrived, I filled it with formula and handed to my mum.  Deflated and uninterested in hanging round to watch her refusal, not even attempting to create a calmer atmosphere, I retreated into the kitchen with little optimism.

Success

But nothing could be heard, no crying, no spitting, she was taking the bottle, not just taking the bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P), she lay on my mum contently sucking at the teat with that same comfort I saw on her face when I fed her myself.  It was not just a fluke, later that evening my partner gave her the bedtime bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P), the first feed he had ever been able to give her.  That night when she woke up I fed her from my breast and in those sleepy moments I was reminded why I did not want to give up breastfeeding.

Naomi and Lily

Middle Ground

Not only because of those midnight cuddles but I was too tired to start faffing round in the night when I did not need to ( this is a non-judgmental article and I think mums that exclusively bottle feed are incredible waking up to do this, especially in those early days of cluster feeding).  From this evening my combination feeding has gone from strength to strength and I have a much more successful story to share.

My daughter is 6 months old and I combination feed her with no plans of stopping any time soon.  A method of feeding I have had to create and perfect alone but one that works so well for me and my family.  I think the intelligence of our breastmilk is downplayed, my milk supply is perfectly in tune with my body. I now can feed my daughter from my breast at any time of the day.  I feel my milk fill up during the evenings, ready to feed her at night and first thing in the morning.  She drinks formula throughout the day and I am not ashamed to admit I have had 2 nights away from her which I really enjoyed knowing she was able to be fed through a bottle by her nanny and be completely satisfied.

  • I enjoy giving other family members the chance to feed my daughter.
  • I love being able to give her a bottle before we go out, I know she has drunk 7oz of milk and is set up for a few hours.
  • I also love coming home to her and knowing how excited she is to see me and lie with me in bed and feed.
  • I love being able to feed her when teething is really getting to her and all she wants is that comfort.

Happy Mama, Happy Baby

MAM Easy Start Anti-colic bottle and soother sample

The MAM bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P) gave her the confidence to alternate between breast and bottle with no fuss.  Our bond is so strong and she really is a little darling that could not be more besotted with her mama.  Is this because I breastfeed her? No, It’s because I feed her, I love her and I take care of her.  I am happy and content which makes my baby happy and content.  It is disappointing that women are still shamed for how they choose to feed.

Fed is Best

My blog is not to push breastfeeding onto mums. I just want those out there like me that want to breastfeed but also want the benefits of bottle feeding to know there is an option to have the best of both worlds.  Wanting convenience and a method of feeding that benefits not just your baby but you and your family is not selfish. Struggling to exclusively breastfeed should not be labelled as an act of heroism, because the act of motherhood in itself makes us all heroes.

Every mother is battling her own demons – be kind to each other and don’t judge.

If you have any questions about combination feeding, or anything else why not Ask Our Midwife