Combination feeding

Combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding is often a first choice for mums thinking about returning to work.


You may want to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding. For example, if you:

  • are breastfeeding and want to express milk to give your baby by bottle
  • want to breastfeed for some of your baby’s feeds but give infant formula for one or more feeds by bottle
  • are bottle feeding your baby and want to start breastfeeding

If you're introducing infant formula, this will reduce the amount of breastmilk you produce. It may make breastfeeding more difficult, especially in the first few weeks, because your body will make less milk.

Introducing infant formula

If you choose to introduce infant formula, it’s best to do it gradually to give yourself time to adapt and to give your body time to reduce the amount of milk it makes. It usually helps to give the first few bottles when your baby is happy and relaxed – not when they're very hungry.

It may also help if someone other than you gives the first feeds, so that your baby is not near you and smelling your breast milk. It can take your baby a little time to get used to the bottle, so keep trying and don’t force the baby to feed.

If you're going back to work, think about how you'll do it. Start a few weeks beforehand to give both of you time to get used to it. You may find that you don’t need to introduce a bottle if your baby can drink milk from a cup and you can breastfeed when you're at home.

Choosing to restart breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. If you decide not to breastfeed or have stopped breastfeeding, it is possible to restart. This can be difficult because your milk supply will naturally reduce once you aren't breastfeeding, but it can increase again to meet your baby's needs.

If you want to reduce the number of bottles and breastfeed more:

  • Holding and cuddling your baby in close contact (skin to skin) as much as possible will give you and your baby the time and opportunity for breastfeeding to happen more easily.
  • This stage can take some time while your baby builds up feeds little and often.
  • When your baby comes off the breast, offer the second. It doesn’t matter if they're not interested or don’t feed for long. This is OK. Start with that breast next time as it helps to boost your milk supply.
  • Talk to your midwife, health visitor or trained volunteer (peer supporter) about ways to reduce the amount of infant formula or expressed milk.
  • As your milk supply increases, you can gradually decrease the amount of infant formula or expressed breast milk. Some mothers find that it helps to do this one bottle at a time until that feed is replaced by a breastfeed.
  • If you've been expressing milk for most of your baby’s feeds, it's often helpful to carry on so that you keep your supply high during the changeover period.

Help and support

If you have any questions or concerns about combining breast and bottle feeding, ask your midwife or health visitor. You can also contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline and get support and information from someone, often local, about breastfeeding your baby.

© NHS.