Combining formula and breastfeeding

For something that’s incredibly common, there isn’t a lot of discussion around how to integrate breastfeeding with regular formula feeding. One reason might be that, for many families, the combination can feel so seamless that it may not need much discussion. Other families can have trouble finding a good balance, though. One way to help find balance and figure out the best way to supplement? Consider why you’re supplementing.

Supplementing because of low production

Parents who supplement breastfeeding with formula because of low milk production should keep in mind that production will continue to decrease with less stimulation (from either nursing or pumping). This means that, whenever possible, it’s a good idea to start a feeding at the breast and then, if Baby is still hungry, offering a bottle. Since you’re hoping to keep milk production pretty stable, there’s no need to slowly ease into supplementing because of low supply.

Supplementing to share responsibility

Some families introduce formula supplements because they want to be able to share the responsibility for feeding with a partner, or if they’re going back to work and can’t or don’t want to commit to pumping during the day. For these families, it’s a good idea to ease into supplementing one feed at a time, so the breastfeeding parent’s body can start to adjust to lower milk production while, hopefully, avoiding painful engorgement. In these cases, it can also be helpful to introduce a bottle part-way through a feed the first few times. This will allow Baby to get some breastmilk before getting formula, so that by the time she gets a bottle, she won't be quite so hungry and may be happier and more willing to try new things than she would if she were hungry and fussy.


  • If your little one doesn’t take to the taste of formula right away, you may just not have found the formula that’s right for your family, but that’s not the only reason this might happen. When it comes down to it, formula just tastes a little different than breast milk, and some breastfed babies are suspicious of the change in taste when they first try it. It is possible and perfectly healthy to mix pumped breast milk in with formula to give your little one a flavor that’s a bit more like what she’s familiar with.
  • Babies are smart - if they can smell that the breast they’re used to being fed from is nearby, they may not be as willing to explore the bottle, so it can be helpful for the first few bottles offered to come from someone other than the breastfeeding parent.
  • Adding regular pumping to the routine can help keep up a healthy milk supply when supplementing.
  • If you are switching feeding methods part-way through a feed and aren't worried about trying to boost supply but are worried about damaging an already positive breastfeeding relationship, starting with the bottle and then switching to the breast can help maintain Baby’s positive associations with that satisfied, full feeling when attached to the breast, which can help preserve a nursing relationship while still supplementing.

There are many good reasons why supplementing breast milk with formula is right for many families. Supplementing is a way of keeping the benefits of breastfeeding in a child’s life while, at the same time, acknowledging that life is complicated and that, for some families, exclusive breastfeeding isn’t realistic or convenient.

Learn more about bottle feeding
  • “How to combine breast and bottle feeding.” NHS choices. UK.GOV, February 10 2016. Retrieved October 26 2017.
  • “Mixed Feeding.” Australian Breastfeeding Association. Australian Breastfeeding Association, August 2017. Retrieved October 26 2017.
  • “Mixed feeding: Combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding.” NTC. NTC, January 2016. Retrieved October 26 2017. 
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