Pregnancy information

Combining breast and bottle

How to combine breast and bottle feeding

It can take several weeks for you and your baby to feel happy and confident with breastfeeding.

Once you've both got the hang of it, it's usually possible to offer your baby bottles of expressed milk or formula alongside breastfeeding.

This is sometimes called mixed or combination feeding.

Why combine breast and bottle?

You may want to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding if you:

  • are breastfeeding and want to use a bottle to offer your baby some expressed breast milk
  • want to breastfeed for some of your baby's feeds, but give bottles of formula for one or more feeds
  • are bottle feeding your baby and want to start breastfeeding
  • need to leave your baby and want to make sure they have some milk while you're away

Introducing formula feeds will probably reduce the amount of breast milk you produce. 

There is also a small amount of evidence to show babies may not breastfeed as well because they learn to use a different kind of sucking action at the bottle than at the breast.

Introducing formula feeds

Combining breastfeeding with formula feeds is better for your baby than switching only to formula.  It means both you and your baby can carry on enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding.

If you choose to introduce infant formula:

  • it's best to do it gradually to give your body time to reduce the amount of milk it makes.  This will also give your baby's body time to adjust from having human breast milk to having formula milk
  • if you're going back to work, start a few weeks beforehand to give both of you time to readjust
  • if your baby is six months old or more and can drink milk from a cup, you may not need to introduce a bottle

Giving your baby their first bottle feed

Babies use different sucking action when drinking from a bottle and it may take a while for a breastfed baby to get the hang of it.

  • It usually helps to give the first dew 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.

Restarting breastfeeding

If you want to start breastfeeding more and give your baby fewer bottles, it's a good idea to ask your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter for support.

These tips may help too:

  • Hold and cuddle your baby as much as possible, ideally skin to skin.  This will encourage your body to make milk and your baby to feed.
  • Express your breast milk regularly.  Expressing releases the hormone prolaction, which stimulates your breasts to make milk.  About eight times a day, including one at night is ideal.  It may be easier to express by hand to begin with - your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter can show you how.  You can also read more about expressing by hand.
  • Try bottle feeding while holding your baby skin to skin and close to your breasts.
  • If your baby is latching on, feed little on often.  Don'y 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.
  • Decrease the number of bottles gradually, as your milk supply increases.
  • Consider using lactation aid (supplementer).  A tiny tube is taped next to your nipple and passes milk into your baby's mouth so your baby can get milk via the tube as well as from your breast.  This helps to support your baby as they get used to attaching to the breast.  Your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter can give you more information.

Help and support with mixed feeding

If you have any questions or concerns about combining breast and bottle feeding:

  • talk to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter
  • call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am to 9.30pm, daily)



Last Updated: 13/06/2023 10:17:54
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website