Combination feeding: A lot of moms do it, but for some reason there isn’t much advice out there for the mothers who feed their babies both breastmilk and formula (aka combo feeding, supplementation, and partial weaning). We’ve talked a lot about nursing and pumping, including nursing clothes for working moms and tips for pumping at the office, and when we recently asked what other kinds of feeding topics readers would like to see, the reader/commenter known as CPA Lady offered to write a post on combination feeding. We’re so glad we can share her experiences and advice! In this guest post, she explains her initial plans for breastfeeding and formula feeding, her decision to try combo feeding, details about her daughter’s feedings from birth to six months, and more. Thank you, CPA Lady! — Kate
Picture credit: CPA Lady. AWWWWW.
Background Info: When I First Considered Formula Feeding
I began maternity leave with my first (and only) child with the idea that I would give nursing a try, but I planned to wean entirely to formula by the time I returned to work at 12 weeks. I did not even consider combo feeding as a possibility, since all the literature I read had warnings that if you began supplementing, your supply would dry up. So I actually went into using formula expecting to exclusively formula feed. I found the website Fearless Formula Feeder helpful in figuring out how to navigate the world of formula.
Once I decided to try to combo feed, I flew by the seat of my pants, guided by absolutely nothing, because there was no real guidance that I could find. There were two sort-of-relevant pages in the 700-page What to Expect: The First Year (affiliate link) that I read over and over, desperate for any nugget of useful information. Most of what I found on the internet had the tone of “you should just try harder to breastfeed.” How helpful. So I ended up making it up as I went along.
How Combination Feeding Worked for My Family: Time Frame, Logistics, Etc.
Birth: My baby “E” was breech and born via planned C-section. Her blood sugar was low enough that it was considered an emergency, so she was taken to the nursery, where they fed her formula as her first food. Her blood sugar came back up, they brought her to me, and I tried nursing for the first time. One of the surprise benefits of having a C-section was that I was in the hospital for 3.5 days, with access to the lactation consultants 24/7. With plenty of help from them, E and I got the hang of things, and nursing was off to a great start.
3 weeks old: We introduced the first bottle of formula, using a Dr. Brown bottle and Enfamil newborn formula, which I picked based on the extremely scientific method of reading Amazon reviews. My husband gave E a bottle with one ounce of formula. I watched from the other room with a twinge of self-doubt. She guzzled down the entire bottle happily.
From this point forward, E typically got one bottle of formula per day around 2 a.m. on the three nights when my husband was not working. This really improved my quality of life because I was able to sleep for 5 or 6 hours straight while my husband took care of the baby. Cluster feeding kicked in at some point in the blurry early weeks, and an occasional bottle helped me get a break during that delightful experience. This was especially helpful on nights when I was home alone and about to go crazy.
6 weeks old: We increased to two bottles of formula per day, the night bottle and one around midday. We were really into the swing of things with nursing at this point and I shocked myself by starting to love it.
8 weeks old: We were up to 50/50 formula. At this point I started feeling really resistant about quitting nursing entirely. I began wondering if I could combo feed by choice. I knew I was going back to work during a slow time, but we were headed into tax season. I’d be hitting the peak of that and working 70+ hours a week around the time my daughter turned six months old. I set a new optimistic deadline of making it to 6 months before switching entirely to formula.
12 weeks old: I went back to work. E had a pretty regular schedule: Wake up and nurse, 8+ hours at daycare, rush home and nurse right away, small bottle of formula + nurse again right before bed. At this point she started sleeping through the night. If I had a normal 40-hour-a-week job I think I could have kept up this schedule of combo feeding for a long time. E only drank formula at daycare since I was not pumping at all. I brought in a big container of formula powder that stayed at daycare, and empty bottles each day. The daycare teachers used the water there, so I never had to do any pre-mixing. E typically got three bottles of formula during the day.
4 months old: I was still nursing two or three times per day depending on how late I got home. Tax season started in earnest, so I started missing the early evening nursing session more and more frequently.
5 months old: I would nurse either once or twice a day. As I got farther into tax season, it was much more likely that I only nursed E in the morning since I usually got home after she had gone to bed (ugh). I started becoming more emotionally ready to stop. I didn’t think she was getting that much milk when she was nursing. Up until this point, my supply had been strong, but once we got down to once a day it started noticeably dropping off.
On the day E turned 6 months old, I nursed her for the last time. I made a little speech about how I was so happy that I did it and told her we were done. That afternoon she hatched her first tooth, which was funny because I had always joked I’d stop nursing as soon as she got teeth. If she missed nursing, she didn’t act like it. I was a little bit sad to quit, but happy I made it for so much longer than I originally had planned. Overall it was a great experience and I would definitely do the same thing again. With an eager baby and a good supply, combo feeding was really the best of both worlds for me — the benefits of breast milk paired with the flexibility of formula. Formula allowed nursing to be a joy rather than a chore for me.
Why I Chose To Combination Feed My Child
Our combined work schedule: My husband was working nights and weekends and I was working a ton of overtime. We saw him for a few hours on two weeknights, and during Saturday afternoon and evening. I was doing 90% of the parenting by myself. I could not handle the pressure to be the sole source of sustenance for our daughter on top of keeping everything else in our life afloat. It also allowed my husband to take over completely and let me get some rest during the time he could spend with us.
Those darned billable hours: This is the reason I never pumped at work and why I didn’t push through tax season to keep on combo feeding for longer than six months. I don’t want to use the word “regret” here, but the insane pressure I put on myself to bill, bill, bill when my daughter was a baby makes me sad in retrospect. Based on the nature of my work, and the design of my work space, any time I spent pumping would be non-billable time that I would need to make up. Pumping = seeing my daughter less. I prioritized spending time with her over feeding her breastmilk. That part I do not regret.
“Best” burnout: Honestly, I was incredibly burned out by the time I had my kid. I had spent my 20s throwing myself into school and work. From always having to do the best and go to the best school and get the best grades, then get the best job at the best firm and work the most hours. The phrase “breast is best” was more than I could handle. I freaked out at being told that I was supposed to attach myself to a breast pump multiple times a day for a year, and reorganize my entire life around making that happen at any cost, just to make sure my kid was smarter and healthier than other people’s kids by a small margin. And for what? So she could go to the best school and get the best job and work the most hours? I was not in the right place to add another “best” to my plate.
Combination Feeding and Mommy Guilt
How did I do it without guilt?
First, I was confident in my decision that this was the right thing for me and my family for all those reasons stated above. And second, I had ongoing, vocal support from women in my life, including from my sister and my best friend, both of whom exclusively breastfed (EBF) till their kids were 2. My work mentor had used formula entirely once she came back from maternity leave. So did some of the other women I worked with. I also had friends who had kids at the same time who supplemented. To have thoughtful, educated women tell me “It’s okay if you don’t EBF” was a huge relief. And I totally scoped out the formula cabinet at daycare, and at least half the babies in this yuppie, organic-kale-eating daycare were drinking formula.
I secretly enjoyed feeling like a rebel too, which is hilarious because I’m a pretty uptight rules-follower generally. No one ever shamed me, even when I mixed bottles of formula in public (REBEL!!!!). I was shocked. I had a whole dramatic speech worked up but never had to use it.
Products For Formula Feeding That I Loved:
This post contains affiliate links and CorporetteMoms may earn commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more details see here. Thank you so much for your support! – Kat
- Dr. Brown dishwasher basket: I had three of these, two regular & one wide-mouth. I cannot see using those bottles without having a dishwasher. There are just too many parts.
- Munchkin High Capacity Bottle Drying Rack: This worked perfectly with all the fiddly little parts to the Dr. Brown bottles. I still use it for sippy cups.
- An astronomical number of bottles: 12? It was not unusual to have the entire top rack of our dishwasher filled with bottles and bottle pieces.
- Enfamil Single-Serve Formula Travel Packs: Great for on-the-go use. I would stuff a handful of these in the diaper bag in case I needed to make a bottle when we were out and about. My friend called these “Crystal Light for babies” because of the packaging.
- I did buy nursery water to make formula with for the first six months or so, but by the time she was closer to one I just used tap water. (Editor’s note: Here are some tips on using water in infant formula.)
Other Random Tips on Combination Feeding:
- My kid never showed a bottle or breast preference. I remember being new-mom irrationally worried about nipple confusion. In retrospect, I wonder, is that even real, or is it just something made up to scare people into not giving their kid a bottle? I think we introduced formula early enough that my kid thought it was just another kind of food served in a different kind of container. She never had a problem switching back and forth. She didn’t have breastmilk in a bottle since I didn’t pump, so I’m not sure if that would have confused her or not.
- I never used a bottle warmer. I went rogue and warmed water up in the microwave like you’re not supposed to. Then I had the genius idea to see if she’d drink room temperature formula, which she did happily.
- For deals on formula, I used Amazon Subscribe & Save to get diapers, wipes, formula, baby food pouches, and other stuff. If you have five things on your order each month you get 20% off everything. Toothbrushes are a good thing to add to an order for a low dollar item if you need something to round out an order.
- If you sign up with the formula companies ahead of time they will send you a ton of free formula samples. That way you can try different kinds to see what your baby likes or does well with. I know some people who had family members sign up for samples too to get extra. If your kid doesn’t end up liking one kind of formula, you can donate the unopened samples to your local food bank. The formula companies also regularly sent books of coupons that I would use at Target, and once I bought formula at Target, they would print out more formula coupons at the register nearly every time I shopped there. I rarely bought formula without a coupon or some kind of discount.
Thank you SO MUCH to CPA Lady for sharing her combination feeding tips and tricks with us! Readers, did you try combo feeding your child? Where did you fall in the formula vs. breastmilk continuum?
Social media picture credit: Shutterstock / Rob Hainer.