Parenting tip

You can enjoy closeness and nurture your baby however you feed them but if you’re feeling low about feeding for whatever reason, share this with someone who can help you feel more positive. Call NCT's helpline on 0300 330 0700.

Mixed feeding - combining breast and bottle feeding

Here we look at mixed feeding, which is combining breastfeeding and formula feeding.

There are many different reasons for considering using infant formula for your baby. For instance, breastfeeding can be challenging. There are times when some women and their babies need the option of formula.

And it’s not always a question of just breastfeeding or only formula feeding; many women do a combination of both, often called mixed feeding, or partial breastfeeding. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor to find out more about your options.  

Milk supply is generally driven by frequent, effective breastfeeding. Giving your baby formula can have an impact on this, because it may mean your baby breastfeeds less often, and therefore you make less milk. The first thing is to check whether formula is the only option for you. If your baby needs more milk than they are able to get at your breast, you may be able to express your own milk, or use donated milk.

If you do use formula, you can minimise the impact on your supply by expressing your breastmilk (to make your body ‘think’ the baby is taking the milk), and by keeping the total formula amount as small as you can.

Usually, you’d offer formula after a breastfeed, but do check with your healthcare professional as there are some circumstances when formula might be given before, or instead of, a breastfeed. 

You can also normally return to exclusive breastfeeding if you want to even after offering formula milk for a period of time. Your baby will still benefit from breastfeeding however much you are able to. If you have managed to breastfeed, feel good about the breastfeeding you have done. 

Further information

NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

Healthtalkonline.org has a comprehensive library of face-to-face interviews where parents share their experiences about breastfeeding, birth, parenting and many other issues.

NHS Choices has information on bottle feeding and breastfeeding in public.

Best Beginnings has video clips from the 'Bump to Breastfeeding' DVD.