Breast milk is the best food for babies up to six months and beyond. However, in some cases, you may need to supplement it. Mothers may consider feeding formula and breast milk together, but may wonder if it is okay to mix formula and breast milk. Also, while breast milk is ready-to-serve, you will have to prepare formula with clean water carefully.
Can you mix formula and breast milk in the same bottle? This post answers all your queries about mixing formula and breast milk, its pros and cons, and a suitable alternative to consider.
Can You Mix Formula And Breast Milk In The Same Bottle?
Yes, you can mix formula with breast milk. However, experts advise keeping breastfeeding and formula feeding separate since (1) (2):
- The storage guidelines for both formula and breast milk are different. Thus, if a baby doesn’t finish the feed, the breast milk gets wasted as you can’t reuse formula.
- Mixing formula and breast milk may affect some of the protective elements of human milk. It may also affect the total protein and mineral intake of the baby.
Despite the different properties of breast milk and formula, they could be different reasons for mixing formula with breast milk.
Why Mix Formula With Breast Milk?
You may consider mixing formula with breast milk in the following scenarios (3).
- The baby doesn’t like breast milk’s taste and refuses to feed. Mixing some breast milk with formula could be a choice in such cases.
- The breast milk supply isn’t sufficient for some reason.
- You are returning to work, and the expressed milk is less, you may consider mixing breast milk with formula.
Whatever the reason, consulting a doctor or lactation consultant is necessary before feeding a formula and breast milk mix to your baby.
How To Mix Breast Milk With Formula?
Before you begin, remember that one should never mix formula powder directly to breast milk since it could cause nutrient imbalance. Observe the following steps to mix formula with breast milk correctly.
- Prepare liquid formula or powdered infant formula as per the instructions on the package or as directed by the baby’s doctor. You can mix breast milk directly to a ready-to-feed formula as it is already diluted appropriately.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using water from a safe water source to prepare formula. Depending on your area’s water quality, you may use boiled tap water or bottled water to make infant formula (4).
- Once the formula is ready, you can add formula to breast milk in the ratio suggested by your doctor and feed the mix to the baby immediately. You can also store the mixed milk in the refrigerator but for no more than 24 hours (5).
Consulting a doctor is essential to know the right ratio of mixing breast milk and formula for your baby.
Are There Any Benefits Of Mixing Formula With Breast Milk?
Although mixing formula and breast milk isn’t always preferred, it could offer benefits in some cases.
- Could help the baby adjust to the formula’s taste. Experts recommend adding a small amount of breast milk to formula while mothers begin weaning their baby to formula. Once the baby adjusts to formula taste, you can stop mixing formula with breast milk.
- May promote sleep for longer durations. It is because the formula takes longer to digest when compared to breast milk. It may be beneficial in some cases. However, this technique should not be used regularly to make babies sleep for longer. If you are looking for ways to promote long healthy sleep in babies, consult a pediatrician.
Besides these, some mothers and caregivers may find that the mixing of breast milk and formula in one bottle is convenient if the baby is both breast- and formula-fed.
What Are The Potential Risks Of Mixing Formula And Breast Milk?
Below are some of the potential risks of mixing formula and breast milk.
- Wastage of breast milk might happen in cases where the baby tends not to finish the contents of their bottle. In such scenarios, it is advisable to prepare small batches of formula and breast milk mix to prevent wastage.
- Reduction in breast milk supply happens when the frequency of breastfeeding or breast milk expression decreases (6). Mixing breast milk with formula also reduces the time an infant spends suckling, leading to a reduction in breast milk supply. Breastfeed regularly and supplement with formula gradually if you wish to maintain an adequate supply of breast milk.
- Possible health risks can occur when breast milk is mixed with formula in inappropriate proportions. For instance, less water can stress the baby’s kidney and digestive system and make them dehydrated (4). Similarly, too much water can make the feed runny and considerably insufficient in essential nutrients. In both scenarios, the baby’s growth and development are affected.
It is ideal to prefer mixing breast milk with formula only when directed by a pediatrician. You may also consider an alternative.
What Is The Alternative To Mixing Formula And Breast Milk?
Experts recommend mixed feeding or combination feeding for effective supplementation of breast milk in cases where breast milk alone isn’t sufficient. Mixed feeding, also known as partial breastfeeding, is a feeding technique wherein you sometimes feed breast milk and sometimes feed formula, separately, to the baby (7) (8).
This technique could let you and your baby reap the benefits of breast milk and formula separately without worrying about any adverse effects. Nevertheless, mixed feeding should never replace exclusive breastfeeding unless advised otherwise by a doctor. You should try mixed feeding after consultation with a lactation expert or your healthcare provider.
Supplementation of breast milk may be needed in some cases, and mixing formula and breast milk may be the only solution. It is best to do it with expert guidance. A doctor or lactation consultant can guide you on the right way to mix formula and breast milk. Also, they may suggest alternatives better suited to you and your baby.