When Bottle & Breast Turns Out Best

There seems to be the myth that as soon as a bottle is used, breastfeeding becomes a distant memory. We want to start by telling you the story shared to us by @mylifeasadoctorswife via Instagram. It gives you an understanding of just one of the reasons a mother may turn to combination/mixed feeding. You’ll also get to see just how conflicted and painful these decisions can be for some mothers.

“I’ve always wanted to breastfeed. Even before I got pregnant, I knew that was how I was going to nourish and bond with my child. I had even planned on extended breastfeeding with hopes to wean around the age of 2. I never understood why people wouldn’t breastfeed – it didn’t make sense to me. It looked easy enough and the milk was there, right? Wrong.

After giving birth, I quickly discovered that breastfeeding wasn’t a walk in the park. At the end of the first week, she had lost weight. Two week weigh-in, she had lost more weight. The midwife refused to discharge us from her care until we could get her weight up. I couldn’t make any sense of it. I fed on demand – why was she losing weight?

I started pumping in hopes that extra bottles would help her gain weight but was barely making enough for one feed. My milk supply was terrible. My family tried to convince me to introduce formula but I refused. It wasn’t part of my plan.

By week 3 weigh-in and she still hadn’t gained any weight. I felt defeated and finally had to admit that there was a problem.

Riddled with guilt I decided it was time to try some formula. I felt like I had failed. I couldn’t even bring myself to feed her the bottle, I asked my mum to. But slowly, week by week her weight was going up. She was fitting into clothes bigger than newborn. She was happy and sleeping well. And all of a sudden I felt guilty again, but not for introducing formula – for not introducing it sooner!

I kept on breastfeeding on demand, pumping and formula feeding. I had stressed myself out so much wanting to exclusively breastfeed that it ended up having a negative effect on my milk supply.

Nearly eight months on now, my baby is combination fed and gaining weight steadily. Formula wasn’t part of my plan but it was a blessing in disguise. I have a happy baby with a full tummy and that’s all that matters.

Plus it taught me the first lesson of motherhood – you can plan all you want but your baby will do as she pleases anyway!

Don’t judge just feed!! You never know the reasons why a mother has chosen to feed her child the way she does so let’s support each other. This motherhood thing is hard enough as it is!”

Like with any method of infant feeding, education and guidance is vital to ensure safe practices. Sadly, a large amount of supplementing and combination/mixed feeding mothers feel completely abandoned when it comes to the discussions surrounding feeding. It often leaves mothers unsure and apprehensive about starting the process of introducing the bottle, particularly when they want to continue breastfeeding. 

We recommend that mothers talk to their midwife or a good lactation consultant if they wish to start combination feeding. When we say a good lactation consultant, we are referring to the vast majority who are open, understanding and respectful of bottle and formula feeding. If you have any lactivist pressure from anyone, report them to their superiors (or governing body) for bullying… because that is what aggressive promotion of breastfeeding is. 

**It is ALWAYS your choice, your human right to choose, whichever method you feel is the best for your baby and yourself. If a mother is considering combination feeding for her own well-being, her right to be happy and healthy does not become insignificant when she has a baby.**

For anyone who would like to know more about this method of feeding, here are our quick tips/guidelines, as in accordance with the NHS.

  • It usually helps to give the first few bottles when your baby is happy and relaxed – not when they’re very hungry.
  • It may help if someone else gives the first feeds, so that your baby is not near you and smelling your breast milk.
  • Keep trying but don’t force your baby to feed. Your baby doesn’t have to finish all the milk in the bottle. Let them tell you when they have had enough.
  • Express your breast milk regularly. Expressing releases the hormone prolactin, which stimulates your breasts to make milk. 
  • Try bottlefeeding while holding your baby skin to skin and close to your breasts.
  • When breastfeeding, if your baby is latching on, feed little and often. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t feed for long to begin with. 
  • Choose times when your baby is relaxed, alert and not too hungry, and don’t force your baby to stay at the breast.

Our network hopes that publishing our supporters combination feeding and supplementing success stories, will hopefully show doubters that nipple confusion and supply issues are often not an issue at all (or can usually be overcome with education and support). These are both used as deterrents for combination feeding, which is unfair and intimidating for mothers considering this method. Every baby, every mother is different and, of course, will have varying experiences when it comes to their feeding journey. Don’t be discouraged to embark on whatever you feel is right for you and your baby.

We would like to thank @mylifeasadoctorswife for sharing her words with us, which inspired us to start the conversation and show the recognition and respect successful combination feeding deserves.