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How Combo Feeding Saved My Breastfeeding

Breastfeed or Formula feed? What about both?! Did you know that was a thing because I sure didn't!

She first latched about an hour after she was born. What a strange and wonderful feeling that first time was. Such a relief I thought. I knew that breastfeeding was going to be hard, but I thought "Not us. It won't be *that* hard for us." Why I thought we were excluded was beyond me.

It was about day 4? 5? 6? (that time is really fuzzy to me) that we had to give her her first bottle of formula. Ivy wasn't gaining weight and her latch was extremely painful (much later we would find out that she had a Lip and Tongue Tie, but we will save that for a later blog post...). Our midwife and our IBCLC told us we had to start supplementing in order to get the weight on her. Since I didn't have any pumped milk yet, my husband Tyler immediately went out and got formula, and just like that we began to combo feed.

Combo feeding, or combination feeding, is when you feed your baby both breastmilk and formula. 7 out of 10 parents say that they combo fed their baby in their first 6 months of life. Allow me to repeat - 7 OUT OF 10!

There is this stigma in the "feeding your baby" world that you are either on Team Breast or Team Bottle. That it is either breastmilk all day every day or your shaking up that bottle of formula. It's a this or that culture that leaves us in the grey area wondering "what about this AND that?"

If 7 out of 10 of us are combo feeding their babes, how come there aren't more people talking about it? It was in the most recent New Parent Support Group that everyone on the call realized that we were all combo feeding or thinking about combo feeding. Immediately we all felt this huge sigh of relief. "I'm not alone" I thought.

For a while I was breastfeeding, pumping and supplementing with pumped breast milk to get Ivy's weight up, but I was miserable. I remember Facetiming with one of my close friends and sobbing and her being so concerned. My mental health was at the lowest it's been, I wasn't bonding with Ivy and I was in pain both physically and emotionally. That night I packed up my pump and we started out giving her 3 bottles a day and breastfed on demand as needed.

It was like coming up for air after holding my breath underwater for weeks. I wasn't chained to my pump, my husband could help with the feedings, my emotional fog was lifting, and Ivy was gaining weight. We still had some major troubles (again due to the lip and tongue tie) but I finally felt like we can do this. Introducing formula absolutely came with a lot of guilt and shame (which is ridiculous and not fair). It felt like a failure. What would everyone think??? I felt ashamed that I was a Birth & Postpartum Doula using formula. There, I said it. Absolutely awful I know, but it's what I thought at the time. I kept asking and was getting asked "Would you judge one of your clients for using formula? One of your friends?" and the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT! I would never ever judge someone for feeding their child.....

So then why was I judging myself??? Ooooof big questions and thank you therapy for helping me sort out those feelings.

Anywayyyyys, I digress. This is a long winded and jumbled way of saying that the introduction of formula and combining it with breastfeeding SAVED our breastfeeding journey. If it wasn't for Combo feeding I would have given up on breastfeeding all together, and breastfeeding felt (and still is) important to me. Allowing us to give Ivy a bottle of formula took some pressure off, allowed me to heal physically, allowed me to sleep, allowed me to step away if I needed to. Now, after getting her lip and tongue tie revised, we are 95% breastfeeding with 1 bottle of formula a day before bedtime at night.

There are some things to consider with combo feeding. If you want to continue breastfeeding, breastfeeding must be established. The more you give your baby bottles of formula and the less you breastfeed the less the demand for your body to make milk and your supply will go down. If you are looking to wean from breastfeeding this could be a great introduction to that! Otherwise, my advice would be to feed on demand and then have set times for your formula bottles. You can pump while someone else gives the baby a bottle and build up your freezer stash, or not! Up to you!

Other things to take into consideration - Be patient! Some babies need a bit of time to get used to formula. Try having someone else give them a bottle if baby is having a hard time taking a bottle from you. Finding the right formula might take some time. Introduce new formulas gradually. Finally, consult with a Lactation Counselor to help support your feeding routine!

I am so happy that we are still combo feeding. Do we *need* to? Probably not.

Ivy is very happy breastfeeding and would be fine if she EBF, but I love that my husband can give her her bottle before bed while I lay on the couch and snuggle with our dog or get a head start on dinner. I love that it takes some pressure off of me. Ivy also loves her bedtime bottle! She sees it after her bath time and goes nuts for it!

The moral of this story is you do you AND you can have it all. This AND that does exist! Maybe combo feeding is really working out for you, maybe you are curious and want to try it, maybe you are loving EBF or EFF. Know that whatever you choose, you are not alone!

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