If you made the decision to bottle feed your baby, you may feel overwhelmed at all the feeding options and probably have a lot of questions. Relax and keep in mind that not all babies are the same and not all bottles work for every baby. As your baby develops, so will their feeding needs. Here are some guidelines to ease your mind and help feed your baby successfully.
Clean the feeding utensils. After washing the bottle parts with soapy water, you will want to use some sort of sterilizer. A microwave steam sterilizer is one of the easiest methods. This is especially important when feeding newborns through 6 months. Their little immune systems are more susceptible to germs, therefore sterilizing the bottles before each use is imperative. If you are unable to afford a steam sterilizer, you can achieve sterilization by placing your bottles and nipples in a pot of boiling water on the stove.
- Find the right bottle. Determining the best bottle for your baby may be hit and miss. Don't worry if you go through a few different brands before settling on one your baby is comfortable with. With so many to choose from, it can be a daunting task. In order to save money, buy full-sized bottles. Although smaller ones may be cheaper, you will need the larger ones more often.
- Choose the nipples. Bottles usually come with nipples but you will want to check that the flow is right for your baby. If the flow is too fast, a newborn will have a hard time and may choke and gag, while an older baby may become frustrated by having to work too hard on a slow flow nipple. There are three categories of nipples:
- Slow (or #1 nipples) are good for newborns just getting used to the bottle.
- Medium (or #2 nipples) are good for babies 3 months and older.
- Fast (or #3 nipples) are good for babies 6 months and older.
Your baby may use nipples outside of the above age categories. You just need to read your baby's cues to determine the flow that is right for them.
- Select baby's formula. As with bottles, not all babies will accept the same formula, so you may go through a trial and error period before settling on your final brand. There are several brands and all can affect your child differently due to minor differences in ingredients, yet most include the major nutrients needed for a healthy diet. One brand may cause your baby to spit up more than the next, or another may make your baby more gassy. Although milk allergies are rare in babies, most formulas are cow's milk based, so if your child has a milk allergy, they will not tolerate the formula. In the rare instance your child does have a milk allergy, there is a selection of soy-based formulas to choose from.
- Prepare the formula/breast milk. If you are feeding the baby expressed breast milk, pour the appropriate amount into the bottle. If you are feeding the baby formula, follow the instructions on the canister, measure the formula precisely and then shake the bottle vigorously. If the mixture is room temperature it is not necessary to heat. Getting your baby accustomed to drinking a bottle at room temperature or cooler makes preparation easier and it does not affect the nutrients. You should not microwave the bottle because microwaving causes the bottle contents to heat unevenly. If you do choose to use the microwave, make sure to shake the bottle well and check for hot spots.
- Feeding amounts and frequency. Newborns tend to eat more frequently. They typically eat about 2-3 ounces at a time and it can be anywhere from 2-3 hours between start to start. As your baby matures you can extend the feeding times and amounts. A 3-month old may eat 4-6 ounces every 4 hours. Putting your baby on a schedule will alleviate a lot of stress and guess-work about their hunger patterns.
- Position your baby for the feeding. Find a comfortable feeding spot like a rocking chair or couch. Cradle the baby, with his or her head in a semi-upright position. Never feed the baby while he is lying down as it can lead to an ear infection. Tilt the bottle at an angle so that the liquid fills the nipple and surrounding area to avoid air intake. Don't forget the bib and have a burp cloth handy to clean up those messes!
- Burp the baby. Younger babies need to be burped several times during a feeding to rid a tummy full of air. Older babies don't need as much frequency, but may still need help burping either during or after a feeding. There are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Over your shoulder - hold your baby facing you and over your shoulder, then firmly pat her back.
- Sitting on your lap - sit your baby on your lap, lean her forward, then firmly pat her back.
- Lying down - lay your baby on your lap, stomach-down, then firmly pat her back.