Best of both worlds?
Exclusive breastfeeding is not a viable or attractive option for all mothers; in these cases, combination feeding can be a really good compromise
AS the debate around breast versus bottle feeding rages on, combination or mixed feeding could be a compromise for those mothers sitting on the fence. Combination feeding generally refers to feeding your baby with both breast milk and formula.
There are many reasons why mothers opt for mixed feeding. Some may find breastfeeding challenging; some want their partners to share in the feeding duties; others are unable to produce a full milk supply, while others may not want to breastfeed in public.
"Combination feeding can be particularly appealing to first-time mothers who want a break and find the sleep deprivation a shock to the system. Some people tend to breastfeed during the day and do the bottle feeding at night," says Cliodna Gilroy, education officer with NUK.
If your main motivation for combination feeding is concern about your baby's weight gain, lack of control around the amount they're getting, or because you'd like to share feeding duties, you could express your breast milk. That way you can see exactly how much your baby is getting and allow someone else to take over while you rest. If you want to take the mixed feeding route, however, there are steps you must take to ensure its success. Gilroy says it is essential to establish a good breastfeeding routine first.
"It's best to breastfeed solely for the first six weeks, as the more you introduce formula the more your supply will dwindle." The less you breastfeed, the less milk you will produce as milk supply tends to be dictated by frequency of breastfeeding.
Some mothers fear that combination feeding may give rise to nipple confusion. Gilroy says you can offset any confusion by using a latex and specially designed teat. "With NUK, for example, the hole in the teat is off-set so that milk hits the roof of baby's mouth, making them salivate and break down the lactic acid in the milk, similar to how a baby feeds naturally from their mother." Gilroy recommends talking to the HSE about combination feeding.
"Their breastfeeding support network can offer great advice and tends to be open to the fact that you want to combine feeding."
It may seem like an unusual option but donor milk is becoming a real alternative for mothers who can't breastfeed themselves. The World Health Organisation recommends that low birthweight babies are fed with their mother's own milk. However, it says that when this milk is not available, donor human milk is a good alternative, associated with "lower incidence of the severe gut disorder... and other infections during the initial hospital stay after birth". Ireland has a human milk bank in Fermanagh, run by lactation consultant Ann McCrea.