How To Supplement Breastfeeding With Formula

As a mum, you want to breastfeed your baby to give them the best possible start. But as much as you may want that to be the primary way that your baby gets their nutrition, it’s not always possible and bottle formula is introduced into the routine. How do you know if you need to supplement your breastfeeding with formula?

There are a number of reasons that you may have to supplement your breastfeeding with formula earlier than you intended. The important thing to focus on is knowing when it becomes necessary to supplement your breastfeeding with a bottle. The reasons can vary for different women. So let’s figure out how to go from breastfeeding to formula.

We’re going to look at a few things today that will show us how to supplement breastfeeding with formula. This will help you make a decision as why, when or how a supplemental bottle should be introduced into your baby’s feeding routine. Some of the things that we’ll be looking at;

  • How do we know when there is a need to supplement?
  • Is bottle choice important?
  • Are there any other options for dispensing formula other than a bottle?
  • How do you choose the right formula for your baby?
  • How do you set a feeding schedule when combining breastmilk and formula?
  • When should a pediatrician be consulted?
supplement breastfeeding with formula

How Do You Know When There Is Need To Supplement?

Generally when there is a need to supplement breastfeeding with formula, it’s usually down to one of a few reasons;

how to supplement breastfeeding with formula
  • A medical reason such as jaundice. Most pediatricians will recommend that mum’s supplement with formula to get baby’s bilirubin levels back down to normal. Formula increases the stool output which will help to flush out the buildup of bilirubin.
  • Sometimes it can be as simple as mum not producing enough milk. In order for baby to get the amount of nutrients they need to hit milestones and continue healthy growth, formula supplementing is necessary.
  • Your baby has trouble learning to latch onto the breast. That happens when some babies are born with facial difficulties such as a cleft palette or some form of muscle weakness. For these babies, a bottle is often an easier alternative.

Of course if you think that your little one is suffering from any of these conditions, you should consult your pediatrician to confirm before starting any new routine.

Is Bottle Choice Important?

When thinking of how to supplement with formula while breastfeeding, most people may think that a bottle is the least important factor to consider. However because baby’s digestive system is still very fragile and learning. The bottle that you choose should be one that helps the system rather than hinder or make it uncomfortable for baby while it does it’s job.

breastfeeding with formula

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  • BullThe nipple is too large for baby to effectively grasp and suckle.
  • This also includes the size of the hole in the nipple.
  • Too small and your baby will not get enough formula and become fussy and frustrated.
  • A hole that’s too large presents a liquid choking hazard.

Another good consideration is bottle shape and inserts. Bottles come in all shapes and sizes, there are the traditionally shaped tubular bottles and the relatively newer curved ones.

  • To make sure that your little one doesn’t take in air and end up colicy or with gas, when choosing a curved bottle, choose one with collapsable inserts that deflate with milk volume and minimises the intake of air.
  • A bottle with a wider head is easier to clean and thus more hygienic.
  • Bottles with venting systems also help reduce air intake and prevent colic.

The material that your baby bottle is made from is important as well. If optioning for plastic, BPA-free if the way to go, as it doesn’t have any by-products that will leach into the formula and harm your baby. If you’re still uncomfortable with a plastic option, there are stainless steel and glass bottles as well.

What Other Options Are Available To Bottle Feeding?

You may still be reluctant to supplementing with a bottle for whatever reason. There are a few alternatives available that you might find more to your liking or just generally easier.

Dropper Feeding or Feeding Syringe.

This is exactly what it sounds like, using an eye dropper to feed your baby small amount of formula. An eyedropper holds less formula and will go a lot slower than say a feeding syringe, so that might be something you'd like more. You need to have baby in an upright position to avoid choking, but many mothers like this method as it’s very interactive.

breastfeeding to formula

Spoon Feeding.

You can use a spoon to feed your baby small amounts of formula while holding them upright on your lap. This method is most often used with children that have facial dfficulties such as a cleft palette or muscle weakness.

Nursing Supplementer.

This is probably the most interesting method and literally allows mum to supplement formula with breast milk at the same time.

  • A silicone tube is run from a container of formula that can be hung around mum’s neck.​​​​​
  • The end of the tube is attached to mum’s nipple.
  • As the baby suckles milk from the breast, they also pull milk from the bag of formula.

This method stimulates the mother's milk supply and is most often used when an adoptive mother would like to breastfeed or if mum isn’t producing enough milk.

Choosing The Right Formula.

This is a critical step in the process. Since breast milk comes with all the built in goodness that mother nature intends, you’ll need to read formula benefits carefully to make sure that it’s keeping up with what your body is naturally producing.

formula while breastfeeding

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This is especially important for babies that aren’t thriving on breastmilk solely. In the case of those babies, you’ll want to consult your pediatrician to assure yourself of what particular nutrients are missing, and then choose a formula that supplements that.

The main thing to remember is to choose something in a form that is compatible with your needs and lifestyle. That means a formula in liquid, powder or concentrate form. You should also choose formulas paying attention to the types of carbohydrates and proteins they’ll be providing your baby.

Setting Up A Feeding Schedule.

When supplementing breastmilk with formula, it’s important to follow the same schedule that you had while breastfeeding. You’ll do this by simply alternating between breastfeeding and using one of the methods we’ve talked about. Doing this will lessen the risk to a disruption in baby’s nursing schedule that could further throw off getting them used to the new addition of formula.

When Should I Consult My Pediatrician?

A pediatrician should be consulted when you notice that your baby isn’t thriving on breastmilk alone. Or, whenever you realise that something may not be right. In truth, you should consult your child’s pediatrician when you make the decision to supplement so that you can be guided through the correct way to do it, as well as to have the pediatrician monitor baby’s progress.

from breastfeeding to formula

The Road So Far.

Now that we’ve talked about all the ways, how's and when’s of supplementing your breastmilk with formula, perhaps it’s helped you to see that it doesn’t need to be a big to-do. It can still be a great bonding experience for you and your child. One of the great things about supplementing is that it allows other family members the same chance at bonding with baby.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful, and have brought you to a better understanding of the process and where you’d like to go from here. But don’t forget, always consult your pediatrician before making any big changes to your baby’s diet or routine.

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