Mixed feeding a baby

Mixed feeding | Pregnancy Birth and Baby

Mixed feeding | Pregnancy Birth and Baby beginning of content

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Mixed feeding is when a baby is fed formula as well as breastmilk. Most Australian women would prefer to exclusively breastfeed and 9 out of 10 women start off breastfeeding their newborn. However, for some women, breastfeeding doesn't work out the way they think it will.

Mixed feeding involves giving your baby formula and:

  • milk fed directly from your breast; or
  • expressed breastmilk; or
  • donor breastmilk

Reasons for mixed feeding

Although exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months is the ideal start for your baby, there are reasons why a mother may consider mixed feeding. These include:

Issues with breastfeeding

Sometimes breastfeeding can be difficult for the mother or baby. Problems they could face include:

  • having sore, cracked or bleeding nipples
  • painful, blocked ducts in the breasts
  • mastitis, an inflammation of the breast that can cause pain and flu-like symptoms
  • oral thrush and/or breast and nipple thrush
  • nipple vasospasm (when blood vessels in the nipple tighten and go into spasm, preventing blood from flowing normally) — particularly when cold
  • problems feeding with inverted or flat nipples
  • problems with the baby attaching to the breast, caused by technique, tongue-tie, cleft palate or other issues
  • a baby becoming 'fussy' at the breast or refusing to feed

It is your choice whether you move to mixed feeding — and any breastfeeding you have managed to do for your baby is a success. It's important to know, however, that you can receive help with many of the above issues and this could allow you to continue or return to exclusive breastfeeding.

Low breastmilk supply

It's possible you might feel that you are not supplying enough breastmilk for your baby. This can often be resolved by finding out whether you actually do have a low supply and if so, by taking steps to increase the amount of breastmilk you are producing. Low breastmilk supply may be temporary and many mothers are able to build up their supply so it's enough for their baby. While doing this, they may decide to feed their baby donor milk, or mixed feed them with formula.

A small percentage of women, however, have a low supply of milk because they don't have enough milk-producing breast tissue. This may be due to a previous breast reduction or surgery or other medical condition. If they can still produce some breastmilk, these mothers may choose to feed their baby both breastmilk and formula.

Baby with low weight

A parent who is considering mixed feeding may be worried that their baby is losing or not gaining enough weight. All babies grow differently and their weight may change at different times. Your baby record book may have a growth chart that can help you assess and follow your baby's growth.

Sometimes a lower baby weight is nothing to be concerned about, or it lasts for a short period of time due to a temporary milk supply issue or problem feeding. Alternatively, your baby could be sick, have a medical condition or be sensitive to something you are eating.

A baby may benefit from mixed feeding if they were born very prematurely (earlier than 32 weeks), have a very low birth weight (less than 1,500 g) or are very sick.

Not being at home

Some women may consider mixed feeding because they are uncomfortable breastfeeding in a public place, or because they are returning to work. Although some mothers successfully combine breastfeeding with returning to work, others may prefer not to.

Where can I get help?

It's important to know that many breastfeeding or weight gain issues can be resolved and that help is available to you. You can also receive support and help if you decide to go ahead with mixed feeding your baby.

You can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support. Alternatively, you can contact:

  • your doctor
  • your maternal child health nurse
  • your midwife
  • the Australian Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Helpline: 1800 686 268 (1800 mum 2 mum)
  • a registered lactation consultant

I've decided to mix feed my baby

If you are planning to go back to exclusive breastfeeding after mixed feeding, you will need to keep up the supply of your breastmilk. One of the above healthcare professionals or organisations can help you to do this, so it's important to speak with them first.

They will also be able to help you manage your mixed feeding, depending on your circumstances and the baby's age. They can advise you on:

  • how much formula to give your baby
  • how many times a day to give formula
  • when to move back to exclusive breastfeeding, if relevant

You can also find out more about how to feed your baby with formula here.

Australian Breastfeeding Association (Increasing supply), Australian Breastfeeding Association (Baby weight losses and weight gains), Raising Children Network (Sore nipples and nipple infections), Australian Breastfeeding Association (Mixed feeding), Australian Breastfeeding Association (When breastfeeding doesn’t work), Raising Children Network (Breastmilk), Australian Family Physician (Overcoming challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers), Australian Breastfeeding Association (How long should I breastfeed my baby?), The Royal Women’s Hospital (Breastfeeding problems), Australian Breastfeeding Association (Can you return to work and still breastfeed?), Raising Children Network (Mixed feeding: Supplementing breastfeeding with formula)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2020

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Related pages

  • Feeding your baby with formula
  • Breastfeeding your baby

Need more information?

Mixed feeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Regardless of whether a mother exclusively breastfeeds, exclusively uses formula or does a combination (mixed feeding), she has done her very best and has made decisions that were right at the time, based on the support and information she had available to her.