If you’re a breastfeeding mom or a mom using baby probiotics and want to nurse your baby while supplementing with formula, it’s important to know how much formula is safe to mix with breast milk.
In general, experts recommend that the ratio of liquid feed (breast milk or formula) should be 1:4. This means that for every four ounces of breastmilk, you can give your baby one ounce of liquid feed. One exception is if your toddler is younger than one year and not a year old yet where it’s recommended that the ratio be 1:3 or 2:3 instead.
It’s also important to follow these ratios as closely as possible so there’s no confusion about any risks involved in mixing these two different liquids together.
Formula has a different proportion of fats, proteins and other nutrients than breast milk does. As a result, mixing the two together can throw off your baby’s diet. The ratio is important to follow for the following reasons:
- Breast milk is better for your baby’s immune system and digestive system. Formula may not contain the same ingredients that are in your breast milk but it does have some benefits as well, such as iron and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). When you feed your baby formula mixed with breast milk, however, these benefits are outweighed by the added risk of slow weight gain and malnutrition that may occur. There’s no need to supplement with formula unless it’s medically necessary to do so.
- Organic formula can be less than sterile. Formula is manufactured in a factory, then placed into bottles and cartons for you and your baby to use. You can’t guarantee that every part of the production process was done correctly. There’s also no way to know what other people may have touched the formula before it got into your hands and how clean those hands were.
- Bacteria in your baby’s digestive system can cause illness, diarrhoea and potentially life-threatening complications if left untreated. Your breast milk contains immune factors that help support your baby’s digestive tract, but formula isn’t sterile enough to prevent these illnesses from occurring.
- Formula contains higher levels of protein and fat than breast milk does. Formula contains DHA, but breast milk contains more DHA than formula does. A ratio of 1:4 reduces the amount of formula your baby receives compared to the recommended daily allowance, which is approximately 20 millilitres per kilogram per day.
- Formula may cause colic, allergies and other illnesses that aren’t common in breastfed babies. Babies frequently experience gas from air bubbles in formula and have trouble digesting fats in the formula.
In general, it’s OK for formula feeders to mix formula with breast milk. But it’s recommended that you do so in the recommended ratio.
If you’re unsure how much formula to give your baby each day, look at the nutrition facts on the label of any formula to find out how many calories and nutrients it has. However, this isn’t an accurate way of determining how much to mix with breast milk because there are many other factors that affect your baby’s diet besides just weight gain and energy levels.