Bottle feeding advice

Mixed feeding

It is recommended to exclusively breastfeed your baby until around 6 months of age and there is no alternative to breastmilk that will provide the same optimal balance of nutrition and protection during a baby’s growth and development. However, sometimes breastfeeding may not be possible for a variety of reasons including illness, or the mother’s return to paid work.  At such times when breastfeeding is not possible, the practice of breastfeeding at some feeds and bottle or cup feeding with expressed breastmilk at others, known as ‘mixed feeding’, may be used.

Of those mums who choose to practice mixed feeding, many are able to express and store enough breastmilk to meet their baby’s requirements.  Expressing your milk means you can continue to give your baby the benefits of breastmilk even when you are absent.

If you do choose to introduce mixed feeding with expressed breastmilk, here are some tips to assist.

Mixed feeding tips

  • It is recommended not to introduce a bottle for feeding expressed breastmilk until breastfeeding is well established.  This is usually when a baby is 6-8 weeks old.
  • Feeding your baby with expressed breastmilk will require a bottle.  It is recommended to introduce a bottle at around 8 weeks as, by this stage, breastfeeding is usually well established and it is unlikely your baby will resist a new kind of nipple (breast and bottle require different types of sucking).
  • When possible always offer the breast first for a feed, followed by the bottle if you are doing top up feeds.  Breastfeeding is nutritionally superior to expressed breastmilk.
  • Adopt the practice of expressing at least the same amount of breastmilk your baby takes from a bottle to keep up your supply.
  • If your baby is being bottle fed whilst you are away from your baby and your circumstances allow it, try to express at feeding times to maintain your supply.

Find out more at:

  •  Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing – Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood – Family Book

Bottle feeding

Many mums who choose to practice mixed feeding are able to express and store enough breastmilk to meet their baby’s requirements. Expressing your milk means you can continue to give your baby the benefits of breastmilk even when you are absent.

For mums who are unable to breastfeed or express breastmilk to meet all of their baby’s requirements, mixed feeding with infant formula may be considered. The decision to use infant formula is an important and complex one with many considerations. Once babies are on formula and their reliance on breastmilk is being reduced it can be difficult to reverse this feeding style, particularly if breastmilk is not being expressed to maintain supply, as your own milk supply will diminish.

It is important to seek advice from your health care professional in advance of making a decision to transition from breastfeeding to either partial or total infant formula feeding.

Whether you choose to mix feed with expressed breastmilk or with infant formula, here are some tips to assist.

Tips for mixed feeding with expressed breastmilk or infant formula

  • Wait for breastfeeding to become established, at least 6–8 weeks before introducing a bottle.
  • When possible always offer the breast first for a feed, followed by the bottle if you are doing top up feeds.  Breastfeeding is nutritionally superior to expressed breastmilk.
  • Adopt the practice of expressing at least the same amount of breastmilk your baby takes from a bottle to keep up your supply.
  • If you are using a combination of expressed breastmilk and infant formula, offer the breastmilk first.
  • If your baby is being bottle fed whilst you are away from your baby and your circumstances allow it, try to express at feeding times to maintain your supply.

Find out more at:

Bottle feeding equipment

If you intend to bottle feed your baby you will need to buy appropriate infant feeding equipment, including bottles, teats and sterilising equipment.

Baby bottles

You will need to have between 2 to 6 bottles. If you intend to use a bottle for all your baby’s feeds, it will be ideal for you to have around 6 bottles as babies typically feed around six times per day for the first four months. As babies grow, the volume of breastmilk or infant formula which is needed to meet their nutritional requirements increases and by four months, babies typically drink around 220mL at each feed. Therefore, whilst baby bottles are available for purchase in a range of sizes and smaller bottles are most suitable for young babies, by the time your baby is four months of age larger bottles capable of holding 220mL will be necessary.

When selecting baby bottles look for:

  • Bottles with leak proof caps, discs and teats.
  • Whilst plastic or glass bottles are a matter of choice, plastic bottles are less likely than glass to shatter or break (ensure plastic bottles are labelled ‘BPA-free’).
  • Bottles with clearly marked measurement guides that will endure over time.
  • Bottles with a wide rather than a narrow opening can be more easily cleaned with a brush.

Teats

If you intend to use a bottle for all your baby’s feeds, a minimum of 6 teats will be necessary. There is no one teat that will suit all babies and over time you will discover which teat works best for your baby.

When selecting teats:

  • Check the product label to confirm that the teat design is appropriate for your baby’s age as different teats will have different flow rates and it is important that the flow rate is comfortable for baby.
  • Check and replace teats regularly. Discard as soon as you notice any signs of deterioration including discolouration, stickiness, swelling or cracking.

Sterilising

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that all infant feeding equipment be sterilised until the infant is at least 12 months old. Bottles and teats should be sterilised after each use and stored safely for as long as you use them.

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