Breastfeeding and Formula: The Right Balance

can you mix breastfeeding and formula

Breast milk is often referred to as “liquid gold” as it is the most nutritious option for feeding. However, for various reasons, some mothers may need or choose to supplement their breast milk with formula.

You do not need to choose between exclusively breastfeeding or exclusively formula. Many families choose a combination feeding approach. If this sounds like an approach that would work for your family, it’s important to understand the reasons why you might consider mixing breastfeeding and formula, how to do it effectively, and the potential benefits and challenges of this approach.

Can You Mix Breastfeeding and Formula?

Yes, you can mix breastfeeding and formula. Many parents choose this approach to meet their baby's needs, whether due to low milk supply, returning to work, or other reasons. Consult a healthcare provider for help determining what works best for your family.

Why Mix Breastfeeding and Formula?

Mixing breastfeeding and formula can be a valuable strategy for parents facing various circumstances. First, mothers who experience challenges with low milk supply may choose to introduce formula to ensure their baby receives adequate nutrition.

For working mothers, balancing breastfeeding with a job can be challenging, making formula supplementation a practical solution. Health concerns affecting the mother, such as medications or medical conditions, can also lead to the introduction of formula to prioritize both mother and baby's health.

Combination feeding offers flexibility and convenience, allowing mothers to share feeding responsibilities with partners or caregivers. The choice to combine breastfeeding and formula should be made based on individual needs and circumstances, with healthcare provider consultation for tailored guidance.

How to Mix Breastfeeding and Formula

It's essential to discuss your decision with your healthcare provider, who can offer guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and baby's needs. Here are some things to keep in mind when mixing breastfeeding and formula.

  1. Follow a Feeding Schedule: Establish a feeding schedule that works for you and your baby. Some parents choose to breastfeed during the day and use formula for night feedings or when they are not available.

  2. Breastfeed First: When combining both breastfeeding and formula, try to breastfeed first before offering formula. This helps stimulate milk production and ensures your baby benefits from the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk.

  3. Paced Bottle Feeding: When introducing formula, use a paced bottle feeding technique to mimic breastfeeding. This helps your baby maintain proper latching techniques and avoid nipple confusion.

Benefits of Mixing Breastfeeding and Formula

The benefits of using formula while continuing to breastfeed will vary depending on your goals and how you incorporate both feeding options.

  1. Customizable Nutrition: Combining breast milk and formula allows you to tailor your baby's diet to meet their specific needs. This can be especially important if your baby has dietary restrictions or allergies.

  2. Shared Responsibility: Mixing breast milk and formula enables partners, family members, and caregivers to participate in feeding, fostering bonding and allowing the mother to take breaks.

  3. Transitioning to Exclusive Breastfeeding: For mothers who initially faced challenges with breastfeeding, introducing formula can serve as a bridge while working on resolving those issues. Once any difficulties are addressed, transitioning back to exclusive breastfeeding can be more manageable.

Challenges of Mixing Breastfeeding and Formula

While mixing breastfeeding and formula can offer flexibility and meet the unique needs of parents and babies, there are some challenges to be aware of.

  1. Nipple Confusion: Some babies may experience confusion when transitioning between breast and bottle. To mitigate this, it's essential to use bottles and nipples that closely resemble the breast, and to introduce the bottle gradually.

  2. Supply Fluctuations: Maintaining your milk supply can be a challenge when introducing formula. Overreliance on formula may lead to a reduction in your milk production, so it's crucial to balance both methods effectively.

  3. Emotional Stress: Some mothers may experience feelings of guilt or inadequacy when using formula. It's essential to remember that the choice to mix breastfeeding and formula should be free from judgment, and the health and well-being of both the mother and baby should be the top priority.

  4. Cost: Formula can be costly, and combining breastfeeding and formula may lead to additional expenses.

Bottle Feeding with Breastmilk: A Flexible and Convenient Option

For mothers who want to maintain the benefits of breast milk while introducing flexibility and convenience into their feeding routine, bottle feeding with expressed breast milk can be an ideal solution. This method allows you to provide breast milk to your baby without the need for formula supplementation, offering numerous advantages.

  1. Preserving Breast Milk Benefits: Bottle feeding with expressed breast milk enables your baby to receive the same nutritional and immunological advantages as direct breastfeeding. Breast milk contains essential nutrients and antibodies that support your baby's growth and overall health.

  2. Flexibility for Working Mothers: If you're a working mother, bottle feeding breast milk can be a game-changer. You can pump and store breast milk while at work, ensuring that your baby continues to receive the benefits of breast milk even when you're away.

  3. Shared Feeding Responsibilities: Bottle feeding breast milk allows partners, family members, or caregivers to actively participate in feeding, fostering bonding between the baby and other family members. It also gives the breastfeeding mother some well-deserved breaks.

  4. Precise Control Over Your Baby's Diet: With bottle feeding expressed breast milk, you have complete control over what your baby consumes. This is especially useful if your baby has specific dietary needs, allergies, or intolerances.

  5. Customizable Feeding Schedule: You can establish a feeding schedule that works best for you and your baby. Whether you're aiming to maintain a specific routine or adjusting to your baby's evolving needs, bottle feeding breast milk offers adaptability.

To successfully implement bottle feeding with breast milk, consider the following tips:

  • Invest in a good-quality breast pump to express and store breast milk.

  • Store breast milk in clean, sterile containers and follow proper storage guidelines.

  • Ensure bottles and nipples used for feeding closely mimic the breast to minimize nipple confusion.

Maintaining Your Milk Supply While Combination Feeding

One of the primary concerns for mothers who are considering mixing breastfeeding and formula is how to maintain their milk supply while introducing formula into their baby's diet. Here are some strategies to help you continue providing breast milk while supplementing with formula.

  • Consistent Breastfeeding: Continue to breastfeed your baby regularly. The more often you breastfeed, the more signals your body receives to produce milk. Aim for eight to twelve feedings per day to ensure you are stimulating your milk supply adequately.

  • Breastfeed First: As mentioned earlier, when offering both breast milk and formula, always start with breastfeeding before giving your baby formula. This helps maintain milk production by ensuring your baby empties your breasts efficiently.

  • Pump When You Supplement: If you are introducing formula in place of some breastfeeds, consider pumping during those times to maintain your milk supply. This not only helps you continue producing milk but also builds up a backup supply for future use.

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Staying well-hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet are essential for milk production. Make sure you are drinking enough water and consuming a variety of nutritious foods.

  • Reduce Stress: High-stress levels can negatively impact your milk supply. Find ways to relax and reduce stress, whether through meditation, yoga, or any other activities that help you unwind.

  • Skin-to-Skin Contact: Engage in skin-to-skin contact with your baby as much as possible. This promotes bonding and can stimulate milk production.

  • Lactation Support: Reach out to a lactation consultant for guidance and support. They can provide personalized advice on maintaining your milk supply while introducing formula.

  • Avoid Overusing Formula: Be cautious not to rely on formula excessively. Overuse can lead to a reduction in your milk supply as your body may produce less milk when it is not being regularly emptied by breastfeeding.

  • Gradual Introduction: If you are supplementing with formula due to a low milk supply, try a gradual introduction. This means gradually increasing the amount of formula as needed, allowing your body to adapt to the changing feeding routine.

Real Life Experiences

I personally did not combine formula with breastfeeding for my daughter, but advice from other women shows that there are many ways to go about including formula in your breastfeeding journey.

Breastfeeding at Night

One suggestion for combining breastfeeding and formula was to breastfeed at night as it doesn’t require you to make and warm up bottles. If you are still using a bottle at night, choosing pumped breast milk for that bottle might be better than formula because it is safer to leave it out at room temperature.

mixing breastfeeding and formula experience

Best of Both Worlds

Combination feeding can provide the best of both worlds by giving your baby the benefits of breastfeeding, like increased antibodies and cost-effectiveness, as well as the benefits of formula feeding, like shared responsibility with a partner and less anxiety around milk supply.

mixing breastfeeding and formula experience

Variability in Your Approach

Combination feeding can allow for variability in your approach. You don’t need to have a rigid schedule of when you use formula versus when you breastfeed. You can incorporate formula more on some days compared to other days and do what works best for you.

mixing breastfeeding and formula experience


In the realm of parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the same holds true for your breastfeeding journey. The decision to mix breastfeeding and formula is as diverse as the circumstances and goals of each mother and family.

Whether you find yourself blending the two to maintain a work-life balance, to overcome challenges with milk supply, to nurture shared bonding, or to address dietary needs, the key is to find the right mix that aligns with your unique situation. By recognizing that there are numerous ways to incorporate formula into your breastfeeding journey, you empower yourself to make choices that prioritize the well-being of both you and your baby.

Seek guidance from healthcare providers, lactation consultants, and other experienced parents, and remember that your love and care are what truly matter on this incredible and personal journey of motherhood.

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Author, Founder @ Latch Luxe

Stefanie Statler

Stefanie Statler is an author and the founder of Latch Luxe, with a loving husband and daughter. She is a dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers and understands the challenges and joys of motherhood firsthand. Email me at

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