Mixed Breastfeeding: Everything You Need to Know

June 17, 2021
Mixed breastfeeding occurs when a baby is fed from the mother's breast as well as from milk formulas. However, this type of feeding has some undesirable effects. Find out more in the following article.

Breastfeeding is the most common way to feed babies. However, in many cases, the baby’s feeding can be combined with artificial formulas. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about mixed breastfeeding in this article.

The recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that mothers should maintain exclusive breastfeeding until up to 6 months of age, as breast milk has all the nutrients necessary for the baby’s development. After this time, parents can initiate complementary feeding.

However, in many cases, this isn’t possible and mixed breastfeeding occurs. In other words, the baby feeds both from the mother’s breast and from milk formulas.

Why does mixed breastfeeding occur?

Many situations lead mothers to use mixed breastfeeding with their babies. Some of them are the following:

  • Mothers state that the baby isn’t filling up with the milk they produce. In addition, they’re unaware of the benefits of breast milk.
  • Lack of stimulation for milk production.
  • Lack of knowledge about the correct handling of the method for expressing milk and keeping it properly refrigerated.
  • Practicality, since breastfeeding requires time and adequate space.
A mother breastfeeding her baby.
Mixed breastfeeding can occur due to a lack of knowledge of how to stimulate breast milk production.

Read also: Four First-Time Mom Mistakes to Avoid

What are the benefits of mixed breastfeeding?

In many cases, certain digestive problems require the use of adapted formulas, as they help to correct some problems. For example, in the case of premature infants or those with a tendency to have reflux. In these cases, they help to improve the symptoms, as they’re designed to prevent them.

Controlling the baby’s weight

When the child has certain difficulties in gaining weight, it’s best to think about correct nutrition, which often means incorporating the most suitable formula. This is because babies need controlled hydration, and formulas are very appropriate.

Due to medication

There are certain medications that the mother may be taking that have the characteristic of passing into the breast milk. In these cases, it’s best to stop breastfeeding and resort exclusively to formulas until the mother no longer needs to take the medication.

The problems with mixed breastfeeding

Mixed breastfeeding can involve certain drawbacks. Therefore, as much as possible, it’s best to maintain breastfeeding for the time recommended by the WHO. Also, a pediatric professional should supervise the use of a formula to avoid complications for the baby. What can it cause?

The baby may have preferences

Generally, the baby rejects the bottle, as breastfeeding not only provides nourishment but also bonding. However, the opposite may be the case, as the baby begins to prefer the bottle because it requires less force to suckle.

In many cases, the child even rejects the breast because it’s difficult for him to suckle. To avoid this, there are artificial nipples designed to make it equally difficult for the baby to suck from the bottle or the breast.

A mother preparing to bottle feed her baby.
Suckling difficulties can cause a baby to refuse the breast.

The amount of breast milk does not match the baby’s growth.

When the child’s needs increase over time, it’s easier, to increase the amount of formula, rather than wait for breast milk production to increase. Therefore, as the months go by, the amount of breast milk the baby drinks will be less concerning the amount of formula they drink.

Discover: A Mother’s Microbiota Impacts Fetal Brain Development

Lower breast milk production

As already mentioned, less breastfeeding decreases the stimulation of milk production, so that exclusive breastfeeding may have to end earlier than planned. To avoid this, formulas should be given as little as possible, leaving them for occasional moments.

Oral problems

Several studies suggest that when the baby is bottle-fed, it can’t perform the physiological movements of the jaw, as it must control the amount of milk it ingests to avoid choking and to be able to swallow. This doesn’t happen if the baby breastfeeds.

The lack of correct muscular movement decreases the stimulation of growth and the shape of the mouth and contributes to the appearance of future problems.

Mixed breastfeeding: What to remember

We shouldn’t forget that breastfeeding up to six months of life is important, not only for infant growth but also for its benefits in protecting against infectious and respiratory diseases.

However, the combination of breastfeeding with formulas can have some benefits, such as those mentioned above, provided that it is used in specific cases.

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  • Todo lo que necesitas saber sobre la lactancia mixta [Internet]. Natalben. [citado 27 de abril de 2020]. Disponible en: https://www.natalben.com/lactancia-mixta
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