The breast feeding or bottle feeding debate goes on. New parents are faced with the either one or the other controversy in trying to decide what is best for the baby and best for the family. But, why does it have to be exclusively one or the other? What about a combination of breast and bottle? Many working moms find that a combination works well, and it might be the right choice for other families too…
In the first days and weeks after baby’s birth, the mom’s milk supply is determined by the baby’s appetite. Nursing frequently and for longer periods helps to build up an adequate milk supply. Decreasing the number of feedings, or if the baby takes less at a feeding, will cause the mother’s milk supply to decrease as well. Establishing a good milk supply requires frequent nursing sessions.
If a mother plans to return to work, she may choose to use a breast pump to express milk so the baby can be fed breast milk using a bottle and the milk supply will likely stay strong and adequate. This is one way to combine breast and bottle feeding-feeding the baby at the breast for some feedings and then using a bottle to feed the baby breast milk at others. Mothers will need to learn about pumping and safely storing breast milk-but for many, this is a practical way to manage when a mother works or is away from the baby, and allows other caretakers to feed the baby.
For other mothers, pumping may not be desired or practical and it may be necessary to give the baby formula at some of the feedings. In order to keep an adequate milk supply, it is recommended that the mother feed her baby at the breast 7-8 times a day. With less feedings at the breast, the milk supply will decrease and adjust to the amount of milk being taken by the baby. Where this can be challenging is during growth spurts-when the baby suddenly begins eating more at a feeding. It usually takes the breasts a couple days to adjust to the increased demand. Giving more formula may keep the mother’s breast from adjusting to the increased demand.
Many women find the combination of breast and bottle works better as the baby gets older and begins to eat some solid foods. Breast feeding can take care of the baby’s milk and nurturing needs, while more and more calories and nutrients are being taken as solid food.
It is possible to feed baby with a combination of breast and bottle and many families find doing both to work well. A combination allows the baby and mother to benefit from breast feeding, while also allowing some flexibility and opportunity for others to care for, and feed the baby.