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Supporting combo feeding with, Andrea Kirschling, CLC

Andrea Kirschling @combofeedingsupport is a Mother Wit Mama and a newly minted Certified Lactation Counselor. When she was on my podcast, she had just sat her exam through the Healthy Children Project, Center for Breastfeeding and shortly thereafter, she sent word that she passed! So, she will soon be serving families virtually and in the Indianapolis area.

When Andrea Googled "Combo Feeding" she came up dry. This set her off on a journey to learn more about all the ways she could help herself and her new baby, Sully, with feeding challenges.

What is combo feeding?

Combo feeding is the use of breastmilk and formula in literally any combination or via any method that you can think of. You can nurse directly, pump, or hand express to access breastmilk and use any amount of formula needed or desired for your baby. Every family's feeding plan is unique and may change over time as your baby grows. Combo feeding is different than temporary supplementation and can strategically be done long-term. The intentional use of formula can still support your family's breastfeeding goals.

It could be breastfeeding or pumped breastmilk during the day and formula at night. Or maybe your plan involves no pumping at all and instead, you intentionally allow your milk supply to lessen (as if you are going to wean slowly) and you replace some feeding with formula instead. Combo feeding could involve the use of a supplemental nursing system (SNS). It might even involve donor breastmilk! Find a milk bank here.

Why people might choose this method

  • Feeding difficulties (structural, functional, low supply, unresolved pain)

  • Separation from baby (i.e. Work/School)

  • Mental health - prevention, part of treatment plan, traumatic birth recovery

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Sharing the load

  • Because you choose to. You don't actually need reason :-)

  • This list is my no means exhaustive- We'd love to hear from you with your reasons for combo feeding too!

Normalizing combo feeding

Combo feeding allows families to have more say in how they feed their baby. Statistically we know that many families include formula in their feeding plans, temporarily or long term, but often combo feeding families have individual feeding plans that don't fit into neat little boxes. Assuming one feeding method works for all families sets new parents up for feelings of failure. Normalizing the various ways babies can be safely and healthily fed is important but what's most important is supporting parents in their choices because they know what's best for their family.

Long term combo feeding requires a great amount of knowledge, both breastfeeding and formula feeding education, along with responsive feeding skills to be successful. Combo feeding often requires some flexibility, an open mind, and willingness to change as baby grows and their feeding needs change. These are the skills that should be supported and celebrated for all parents feeding an infant under the age of 1.

Tanya chiming in here... this really resonates with me because I have seen quite possibly thousands of new parents tell me that they plan to use both breastmilk and formula but by 6 weeks postpartum, the vast majority are only formula feeding and when I ask why, they say they simply don't have any more milk. This really speaks to the intentionality required to combo feed long term.

Approaches to combo feeding

You may stumble upon it while on a path towards completely weaning and realize that you have found your sweet spot. It might stay this way for a time or you may continue to explore what fits your needs best. You may want to combo feed from the start and partner with a supportive lactation consultant to develop a plan that fits your family. The key to long term success is goal setting. With so many feeding options available you may feel some analysis paralysis if you don't have a clear sense of why you want to feed this way and what your family's needs are. Having a supportive team of health care professionals, open communication, and ability to express your family's feeding needs can help you turn combo feeding into a long term solution for your family.


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