Combining breastfeeding with bottle-feeding breast milk has become integral to contemporary child care, particularly for working mothers. There are ways to ease into this transition which largely depends on managing your breast milk production.
Many first-time moms are not sure when to introduce bottle-feeding to their babies. Breastfeeding and expressing enough milk for any given day can be intimidating.
Most mothers have a pretty good idea about supply meeting demand which they gauge against their breast milk production. Yet, many fall short of their objectives for several reasons.
In this article, we will try to put your nerves at ease by sharing valuable tips and other information about breastmilk production.
We will also figure out how best to approach this mixed feeding technique for your little one.
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Breastfeeding and bottle feed
Establishing a feeding routine for your little one helps solve many mothers’ dilemmas.
In contemporary times it is not always possible to only breastfeed for the recommended first 12 months, as many working mothers are not afforded maternity leave for an entire year.
If mothers want to continue feeding their babies breast milk, it will become necessary to resort to expressing enough milk to last for the time away from their little ones.
This can be achieved by regulating milk production and introducing the bottle at the right time.
Does breastmilk production gets affected by bottle feeding?
Babies can change their mother’s milk production by changing the frequency and length of their feeds, but they do not solely regulate breast milk production.
Many other factors alter breast milk production, especially among mothers who cannot exclusively breastfeed and those with milk production issues.
The certainty of milk production decreasing during your breastfeeding journey is a reality that can be corrected.
Reduced milk production usually occurs if you cannot breastfeed your baby for medical or other reasons and do not follow a milk-expressing routine.
In essence, if demand slows, then supply will decrease.
Many breastfeeding mothers will seek advice on preventing their milk production from slowing over the long term.
Follow the magic number routine
Talking about a magic number almost sounds like a fallacy-driven concept, but it is rooted in science.
The magic number is the number of times in 24 hours that a mother removes milk from her breasts to maintain and sustain her milk production.
If the number of times milk is removed from a mother’s breast constantly remains at the magic number or above, then milk production will remain constant or may even increase slightly.
But if a mother falls below this number, her milk production will decrease.
Interestingly, research has found that waiting until your breasts feel full before expressing or breastfeeding is not sound advice.
The fuller your breasts become, the slower your milk production.
On the other hand, when milk is drained more fully, milk production speeds up. This can change from feed to feed, as research has indicated.
In one study, for example, after 6 hours without milk removal, one mother’s rate of milk production per breast was 22 mL (about 2/3 oz.) per hour.
By breastfeeding from that breast every 90 minutes and removing milk from her breasts more completely, her rate of production per breast increased quickly within the same day to 56 mL (nearly 2 oz.) per hour—more than double the previous rate.
Breast size and milk capacity
The milk capacity of a mother’s breasts depends on the storage capacity of the milk-making glandular tissue and not on the actual size of her breasts which are composed primarily of fatty tissue.
Storage capacity varies among mothers and ranges between 74 to 606 g (2.6 to 20.5 oz.) per breast.
The milk capacity of breasts regulates the production and determines the feeding frequency.
A mother with a small milk capacity will have to breastfeed or express more often to maintain her milk production.
In contrast, a mother with a greater milk capacity can go longer between feeds without affecting milk production.
Weight gain between babies feeding more often from a mother with a small milk capacity and those feeding less often from a mother with a greater milk capacity remains healthy in both counts.
The magic number will differ according to capacity and feeding frequency.
Another interesting fact is that the amount of breast milk a baby consumes in a day remains relatively consistent over the first six months, with an average of between 25 and 30 oz. (750-900 mL).
The average increase during this time is about 4 ounces (120 mL).
The introduction of solid foods will reduce breast milk demand, and mothers will be able to regulate their milk production accordingly.
Combining breast and bottle feeding
Mothers should breastfeed exclusively for at least the first month, allowing them and their babies to become comfortable with breastfeeding.
Once breastfeeding is established, and you are in a feeding routine, you can consider expressing milk for bottle feeds or introducing staggered formula feeds if need be.
The introduction of formula might affect your milk production as you reduce demand.
It is wise to speak to a specialist about mixed feeding and how best to maintain your milk production.
The main reason breastfeeding should be established first is that babies use a different type of sucking motion at the breast instead of the bottle.
Working mothers will typically have their babies bottle-fed expressed breast milk while they are at work.
The transition to bottle feeding may take a bit of time and trial and error to find the right teat and bottle combination for your little one.
But if your baby is older than 6 months and can drink from a cup, you may not even have to introduce a bottle.
Is there a downside to combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding?
This will reduce skin-to-skin time with your little one, which is essential for their early development.
Introducing bottle feeds, whether breastmilk or formula, will not necessarily negatively affect your little one; however, the risk of contamination is ever present, and mothers must be aware of this.
Adding formula feeds to your baby’s feeding routine should gradually allow your baby’s digestive system to adjust.
Breastmilk has a built-in laxative that helps with digestion, while the formula may bring on bouts of constipation. This will dissipate as your little one’s digestive system develops.
In some situations, mothers with inverted nipples cannot breastfeed effectively and rely on bottle-feeding expressed milk.
Your baby might have a medical condition like a cleft palate which makes breastfeeding impossible.
Babies with a cleft palate require a specialty bottle system that provides the proper nutrition without the need for pressure while sucking.
The most crucial objective is ensuring your baby can feed normally and weight gain remains normal.
Mothers who depend on expressing milk need to express breast milk regularly.
This releases prolactin, a hormone that stimulates your breasts to make milk. The average count will be about 8 times a day, including once at night which is ideal.
When should I introduce the first bottle to my baby?
A good tip for introducing a bottle is to do this when your baby is happy and not very hungry, as it may be frustrating for your little one.
It may take a while for your little one to get comfortable feeding from a bottle, and patience is key here.
Some babies make the transition in a flash, but part of their feeding experience is security and a sense of comfort.
Babies thrive on skin-to-skin time with mom. Besides, skin-to-skin time and the interaction with tummy time greatly help your little one’s development.
If you are introducing formula to your baby’s feeding routine, then the transition might be a little tougher if you are the one feeding your baby.
Your baby will smell your breast milk and possibly reject the formula.
To get around this, you should have someone else feed your little one while you wait in the background, ready to breastfeed if necessary.
Introducing bottle feeding is a practical solution to sustain breast milk feeds when you cannot.
Some mothers might feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, even when using specially designed feeding tops or slings.
Bottle-feeding breast milk allows mothers to be mobile and is the best feeding alternative for working moms who want to breastfeed their little ones for as long as possible.
Seasoned moms will testify to the mountain not being as high as it first appears, but it isn’t a walk in the park either.
Whenever you feel uncertain about any issues around breastfeeding or expressing milk, it is best to speak with people in the know, like lactation specialists, midwives, maternity nurses, and doctors.
You will get the best advice uniquely tailored to you and your little one’s health and circumstances into account.
Is nipple confusion not an issue when introducing a bottle?
Contrary to public belief, nipple confusion is not an issue that affects babies. Babies become accustomed to the breast or bottle and establish a nipple preference.
They may fuss a little with one or the other, but this is only them exercising their choice. When introducing bottle feeding, select a nipple with a wide base similar to the breast, which will help with the transition.
How do I know which bottle and nipple are right for my baby?
We recommend purchasing one nipple and bottle style at a time, starting with a nipple closely resembling your breast.
Babies can be very fussy when it comes to bottles. Unfortunately, finding the right fit involves trial and error.
Only once you have found the right nipple and bottle style will you stock up on a larger supply.
How long before I return to work can I introduce bottle feeding?
It is best to start between a month and two weeks before returning to work, and this will give you enough time to establish a pumping routine, and your baby will also be able to become comfortable with bottle-feeding.
Most babies transition to bottle-feeding easily, but if you experience difficulty, there is no harm in seeking help from a professional.
Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding work well together, particularly for working mothers who wish to stick to the goodness of breast milk for their little ones.
Expressing breast milk is convenient and safe as long as you maintain acceptable hygiene standards.
The balancing act depends on consistently keeping up with demand over the first six months.
Every mother has a magic number and blueprint for maintaining their breast milk supply, ensuring that her baby will always have enough milk every 24 hours.
Moms who plan will experience fewer breastfeeding and bottle-feeding issues that won’t give rise to anxiety.