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.
I have been privileged to spend the last year discussing feeding choices with mums and mums-to-be from all parts of the country, to have the opportunity to hear the thoughts on one of the biggest decisions made or forced upon us in parent-hood has shown me more than ever that still, there is a lack of information available for mums which entertains anything other than exclusively breastfeeding.
It is frustrating that women are still not being taught how to use a breast pump or how to prepare a bottle, store milk, prep formula. Whilst I entirely support breastfeeding and its benefits (after all I am a breastfeeding mum) it is not necessary it comes at all costs. Here are my tips on how to start combination feeding.
When should I introduce a bottle?
Always take into consideration your circumstances, your feelings and how you are feeding. Never feel pressured into making a choice that is not one you are happy with. Speaking from my own experience I wanted to make sure I had let my milk become well established and my daughter was settling well into breastfeeding. I gave her a bottle around week 6. This however, had many ups and downs until I changed the bottle to a MAM bottle (it turns out early success isn’t necessarily an ironclad guarantee that your baby will always take a bottle). For whatever reason you have made this brave and, in some cases, very tough decision. Well done and from this point on your feeding journey will change. Whilst breast and bottle are both methods of feeding, to compare them would be like trying to compare a pear and apple. They are so different.
Once you have purchased your bottle and sterilised it correctly (as per the manufacturers guidelines), you will need to make the decision of whether to use formula or breast milk. My suggestion would be to use breast milk when first introducing a bottle, use taste familiarity to your advantage. Always follow guidelines for storing breast milk which can be found on the NHS website.
TIP – Three products I recommend are
- MAM anti colic self-sterilise (Easy Start Self-Sterilising Bottle) bottle – perfect for mums on the go.
- MAM 2- in- 1 breast pump, which enables me to get 6oz of milk in around 11 minutes.
- MAM storage solution containers.
Supply and Demand
It is important to remember that breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis. If you are cutting back the amount of breast milk you need your milk supply will change. That is why sometimes women hold on for their milk to be well established before the addition of a bottle if you are using expressed milk there would be almost no difference, but this is something to consider if you are using formula for the replacement.
TIP – Keep up your milk supply by hand expressing in the shower or bath. I found this was an easy time to express. The warmth of the water encourages the production and no mess.
Decide on one feed to replace with a bottle and stick to this routine for the first few days. This will support your milk supply in slowly adjusting to a change in your milk usage. Just as importantly, this will provide your baby with feeding cues for the bottle. Helping the introduction to be smooth and easy. I began with a morning bottle, I know others who started with the last bottle before bed.
TIP- If your baby is refusing a bottle ask someone else to deliver the feed, so your baby can’t smell your milk. My baby prefers to take a bottle lying on a nursing pillow rather than being cuddled in to someone. Do not wait till your baby is very hungry, cease your chance when they are in a happy mood. Playing with the bottle teat in their mouth is a great way for them to develop familiarity and confidence.
Deciding Which Feeds
Once your baby is happy with a bottle it is down to yourself to decide the feeds you are going to change, and which ones stay as a breastfeed. In the early days of combination feeding I was fairly strict and made sure I dropped feeds in a systematic way. But I still fed from my breast on demand (the bottles were at similar times but feeding from the breast was whenever she wanted).
TIP- Don’t be alarmed if your breasts stop leaking or feeling engorged. The intelligence of our breast milk is truly one of nature’s miracles. At first your breasts will feel hard and often leak, but a lot of this swelling is a result of extra blood circulation and tissue fluid as your body gets used to this new experience. As time goes on your body will naturally synchronise to your routine making the exact amount of milk your baby needs. Hand expressing and skin-to-skin contact will encourage your milk supply, so make time for these in your daily routine. Whenever I have a spare 10 minutes I grab my 2-in-1 MAM pump. It’s so quick and easy to use, especially with the electric setting.
Personalising your Journey
Once you are at a point that your baby is developing confidence when alternating between both breast and bottle you can continue with your combination feeding journey, shaping it to suit your lifestyle. I breastfeed throughout the evenings, the first morning feed and then anytime she requires that comfort or sometimes a top up to get off to sleep. This is a routine I have developed that works for me. Ultimately your feeding routine needs to work for you and your family. Bottles have continued to settle my daughter and I can see how satisfied she is after 7oz of formula. I do continue to express in between feeds when I get the chance and hand express in the shower.
- If you are finding it difficult to give your baby a bottle (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P) try ask someone else to deliver the feed. Our babies can smell our milk and feel frustrated with the offer of a bottle when they think they could have us instead.
- When first introducing a bottle try and stick to the same time of day. Not only will this be a good indicator for your baby to expect a bottle, it will help your breast milk stay in sync with your routine.
- Express in between feeds, although this becomes less important as time goes on and your milk is better established. (try to keep to the same time of day for expressing as this will regulate milk supply)
- Drinking and eating well will always help your milk supply. (dehydration can lead to reduced milk supply)
- I recommend the MAM products highly. My daughter feeds fantastically between both bottle and breast. I believe it is down to the confidence she has developed through this product.