How I Breastfed my Formula-Fed Baby

Posted September 19, 2016 by Julie in Parenting, Sponsored, TopPosts / 45 Comments

I remember those beautiful moments. Those beautifully terrifyingly exhausting moments that is. Those first few weeks/months with a new baby.

Feed your babies; that’s what is most important. That is what the Fed is Best movement is telling us. That whether you breastfeed or formula feed, you are feeding your baby, and that is what counts.

I agree. This is true, great, wonderful. But, there still seems to be a separation between one or the other as far as information goes. We are told to breastfeed on demand as the baby will know when the baby is done. We are told exactly how many ounces we should be feeding our formula-fed babies from the bottle.

But what about the in-between? Surely I am not the only mom who hybrid-fed my baby?


My baby was born with a huge appetite. He was also born on a stubborn nursing strike, which made those early days/weeks/months complicated. A hungry baby who is difficult to feed makes for a stressed out/exhausted/out of her mind new mom. I am very thankful for the existence of baby formula to help us through those long, hungry, exhausted moments.

How to Feed Your Baby a Combination of Formula and Breastmilk (Or, How I Breastfed my Formula-Fed Baby)

You’re probably shaking your head at my title choice, but hear me out. My baby started off on infant formula in the hospital because of his absolute refusal to latch but insatiable hunger. I tried to pump, but have you ever tried to pump colostrum? All I got was condensation.

Tip #1: Offer the breast first, then top off with formula.

In those early days of blurry eyes and everything hurting, I relied on the magic of formula to fill my baby’s tummy, while still trying to latch at every feeding. Things did not improve much when my milk came in, and I worked with lactation specialists to convince my baby to give the stuff on tap a try. It took a while (and the introduction of a nipple shield) to establish a breastfeeding relationship.

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I would then offer an ounce of formula at a time until he was satisfied and stopped drinking. Trial and error gave me a decent idea of how much he was eating, though it was always hard to tell how much breastmilk he ended up consuming.

However, nighttime feeds were a different story. He would just pass out while breastfeeding, even though his tummy wasn’t full yet. So he would wake again quickly and still want more. So at night I broke this rule. I formula fed first, to take the edge off his hunger, and then breastfed him to sleepy town.

Tip #2: Pump, often.

This is everyone’s magic trick tip to helping increase milk supply and also deal with latch refusal. However, again, have you tried to pump while a baby needed you every moment of every day?

Just because he wouldn’t latch doesn’t mean he didn’t demand constant holding and rocking and bouncing and diaper changing. I really could only pump if he were asleep or if someone else was holding him.

When I returned to work after those 12 (short) weeks that I barely remember, scheduling many pumping sessions into my busy schedule continued to be a challenge. I brought home as much milk as I could, but the volumes I expressed were small, and my child was consuming much more formula than he was breastmilk.

Tip #3: Find a balance that works for you, and forget about everyone else (this one’s from me).

I pumped, ate well, drank a lot of water, and I even tried many of the lactation boosting recipes. I did the best I could, but my baby was still only consuming about 30% breastmilk, and the rest was formula. And you know what? I am thankful for that 30% I was able to provide with my body, and very thankful that formula was available for me to feed my baby the other 70% of the time.

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That’s why I’m excited to learn about Gerber® Good Start® Infant Formula. I ended up sticking to what the hospital provided, more out of familiarity than any other reason. But I have always been a fan of the Gerber brand, including their line of first foods and toddler snacks, which my little guy still enjoys.

I perused the baby isle of my local Kroger to grab a box of Stage 1 Gerber® Good Start® Gentle for Supplementing. This formula is loaded with infant nutrition while being gentle on baby’s tummy.



Tip #4: Plan your nighttime feeds in advance (when you’re still awake).

The sleepless nights and ’round the clock care of a new baby can make any new mom loopy. The last thing you want to do is mess up a bottle preparation in the middle of the night when you can’t even walk straight let alone see out of your swollen, squinty eyes. So my best advice is to prep everything the night before.

My baby woke every two hours to eat, so I knew exactly how many bottles I needed to prepare. I pre-filled them with water and pre-measured the formula powder in separate containers.

Then, in the middle of the night, I would just grab a bottle, grab the powder and mix. No measuring needed while your brain is wishing you could have your bed back.


Are you a mom of a newborn or infant? Grab this  $6 off coupon to try out  Stage 1 Gerber® Good Start® Infant Formula for your baby!

Did you supplement breastfeeding with infant formula? Tell me a trick you learned.



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JuliepicI'm Julie, a new mom who works full time and blogs, all while wishing I had more time to read fun books. I write about being a first time working mom in order to help myself and other working moms in our journeys to find balance between family, responsibilities, and hobbies so we can thrive both at home and at work.
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45 responses to “How I Breastfed my Formula-Fed Baby

  1. Abby

    Thank you for your story. So many Mommy’s don’t give themselves enough credit for supplying ANY amout of breast milk, period. As a stay at home Mom, I still could not provide my 3 children with enough breast milk to sustain their tiny growing bodies. I always supplemented. And that was ok. On my second, I discovered the glory of the Medela SNS system, I breast fed my son for 6 months and was able to provide him with at least 50% breast milk. Now with my third, he’s getting about 85%. The SNS provides that bond of breastfeeding that all Mommy’s yearn for. I am thankful for what my body has been able to provide, and applaud myself and all the supplementing Mommy’s out their fornour efforts. Thanks again for your story!

  2. Sounds like you managed to the best for you and your baby, fed is always best! some great tips here I’m sure mums in the same position as you will find this really helpful #kcacols

  3. Fed is most definitely best! I combi fed both of mine as they were not a fan of breastfeeding at all and I really struggled with it. Instead I pumped my milk for 8 weeks and inbetween those they had formula.

    Completely agree on prepping bottles for the night feeds. We did this and it makes everything so much easier! Not heard of the brand Gerber before I don’t think they have them over here.

    Thank you for linking up to #KCACOLS and I hope to see you back again on Sunday

  4. Oh, I wish I would have thought about prepping those nighttime bottles when all three of mine were babies! Would have saved lots of sanity!!!

  5. I also agree that fed is best, and it sounds like you did your best to provide your baby with as much breast milk as you could. In the future, another great option in the beginning days if your baby won’t latch is manual expressing on to a food grade spoon and feeding that to your baby. Colostrum comes out much nicer like that than with a pump in the beginning, your breast gets stimulated and will produce more milk, and you can avoid formula altogether! It’s a fairly new concept not many people are familiar with but it can make a huge difference!

    • That is a great idea. I didn’t learn about manual expression for a while. Tried it a few times but didn’t have much luck with it. I did that when also pumping to get more out but didn’t get any by itself.

  6. I pumped in the NICU with baby R! I was able to get lot’s of milk, but I had to pump constantly and luckily had the support of many great nurses. I love that you found a solution that worked for you and your babe! <3

    • That’s awesome! It does sound like you had some great nurses. I really didn’t pump a lot and in hindsight I should have had the thing glued to me.

  7. I remember getting the cabbage suggestion for pain after nursing. Also recall that my first didn’t really get the concept of sucking until I gave him a bottle (he wasn’t getting enough from nursing and was jaundiced). So glad I’m not doing it anymore!

  8. I love this, some really helpful tips for combination feeding which is what I did. I did both, I fed by baby, fed is best. #kcacols

  9. We loved Gerber Goodstart. Used it with all 3. This is a very nice post but tip#3 really needs to be shared. Every mom should do what works best for them and baby. Many moms are worried about combination feeding. For some reason there’s this notion that one has to be all breast or all bottle. This post clears things up.

    • Yea I’m not sure why there isn’t more information out there on a combination of the two. It does not have to be one or the other and many moms are commenting that they did both. But even in my breastfeeding support group there was only one other who did combined and she too complained that there isn’t much info on how to do that.

  10. I really like your point of finding what works for each mom, each baby, each family. You did what worked.

    I had to supplement for some time. I was on the pump so much to get my supply up. We are nearing the end of our breastfeeding journey (almost 18 months) but I am glad formula was around when I needed it!

    • So awesome that you made it to almost 18 months! Yes, it is great that formula is available when we need it, and glad to hear you were able to increase your supply enough to not need it anymore.

  11. I pumped for my twins, but also fed them formula. They were in the NICU so long that it was hard to finally get them to latch. Also, they needed to gain more weight, so I added formula to my breast milk too. I think a combination is a really great option. It takes some of the pressure off the mom. Any way you feed your baby, you are doing your best job! Great post!

    • You’re right that it does take some of the pressure off, though there’s still that nagging guilt of why can’t I produce enough to fully feed my kid(s). But yea, we have to do the best we can with what we have, and having formula as an extra option is wonderful.

  12. Tip #3 for sure!!! We can read all the info, but there’s a lot to be said for trusting our gut when it comes to caring for our own babies. I was a hybrid feeder for my oldest, mostly breast for a few months for middle, and youngest wanted the boob all. the. time.

  13. My second child was born at 33 weeks so my milk really hadn’t come in yet so when he was in the NICU, he was getting formula. However, once my milk came in, he breastfed, but like you, he was HUNGRY! So we did both. No sense in stressing myself out when supplements are available!

  14. Babies are so much work! Yikes! I feel like a horrible person saying this, but I’d always breathe a sigh of relief once they started crawling. As a WAHM with no one to watch my kids but also possessing a strong need to be productive, it was super stressful.

    • But when they start crawling now they are getting into more trouble heh. yes though it is difficult to get stuff done with little babies always wanting your attention.

  15. I’m a big believer in fed is best, and that a happy mum equals a happy baby, but it can be so hard to remember that when you’re in the thick of it and feeling pressure to do things a certain way. I really struggled feeding my son, and ended up pumping and topping up with formula for two weeks before moving him on to just formula. Then my daughter came along and I breastfed her for about 13 months. From my experience I think that formula feeding and breastfeeding both have their pros and cons, but ultimately doing what was best for my mental and emotional wellbeing ended up being the best thing for our whole family each time. x #KCACOLS

    • You’re right – doing what works best for our emotional and mental health is the right choice. And it is pretty amazing how both experiences were so different. We really never know how things will end up working out.

  16. Tip #3 is amazing! It’s so important to find what works best for you, and not worry about what the entire world thinks. You’ll never make everyone happy, but as long as you and that baby are happy that’s all that matters. 🙂

    • Truth that you’ll never make everyone happy. Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to make anyone happy haha. But yea, do what works, and screw everyone else.

  17. This is really interesting! I didn’t know combi feeding was possible with my first daughter so when I couldn’t breastfeed we just went straight to formula. Next time I might try a combination of the two! #KCACOLS

    • See it’s rough when either or options are pushed. Hopefully we both have a better experience breastfeeding next time around but if not, we know to do both and not give up on breastfeeding completely.

  18. I totally agree. I’m actually going through this right now. My newborn has a very big appetite but she is a slow nurser. So she will be at my breast 40 minutes at a time. I really don’t have time to do that, so I’ve been pumping. If it keeps up I may consider the option of formula, because a fed baby is a happy baby and a happy mama!

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