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Basic Information About Bottle Feeding Every Young Mom Should Know

Many women feel that breastfeeding a baby helps develop a closer mother-child bond, as compared to bottle feeding. But that’s not entirely true. When you bottle feed you do get a chance to hold your baby close to your body and nurture and strengthen the relationship with him. There could be various reasons for introducing a baby to a bottle. Maybe the mother needs to get back to work and hence the baby needs to start off on a bottle, the mother has some physical ailment which makes it impossible to breastfeed, or it could be time to wean the baby from the breast to a bottle. Whatever the reason, you should be fully aware of the bottle feeding techniques which will ensure the safety and good health of your infant. For a newborn, it’s fairly easy to start off on a bottle, whereas for a breastfed baby, introducing a bottle can be as easy as a pie, or turn out to be a nightmare for some parents.
Introducing the Baby to a Bottle
Bottle feeding
There is no fixed time for this. Every baby is unique, and as the mother, you are probably the best person to judge when your kid should start using a bottle. A sign that your baby might be ready for it is when he nurses less than usual. It’s not just the baby, weaning an infant can be hard for the mother too. So give it a good thought before you think of starting the bottle, keeping yours and your baby’s needs in mind. As much as breastfeeding has its advantages, bottle feeding scores when another caregiver, especially the dad can also hold and feed the baby. To make the switch easier, start with combination feeding, breastfeeding thrice a day, and the remaining times use a bottle. Begin by feeding your baby expressed milk, and then slowly transition to formula. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, so the feeding frequency and bowel movements too change accordingly. The transition phase may be stressful for your infant, so hold and cuddle your baby more. Never ever quit breastfeeding cold turkey!
Choosing the Right Baby Bottles
Plastic baby bottle
Baby bottles are available in both plastic and glass. The advantage of plastic bottles is they are much lighter and do not break. If you opt for plastic bottles, look for ones that are labeled BPA-free.
Bottle nipples are either made from silicone or latex and available in several sizes. Whichever material you use, ensure that the size of the hole is right, and the flow of the liquid through it isn’t too less or too much. You can check how the liquid flows from the nipple. Fill the bottle with water, attach the nipple and invert it. You should get a steady drip. The water should not rush out, nor should it be so slow that you have to shake the bottle hard. You can try using a few till you realize which fits your baby’s needs best. With prolonged use, nipples can get worn out and even fade in color. Discard them immediately.
Sterilizing Baby Bottles
Sterilizing Baby Bottles
Before initial use you must sterilize the baby bottle, including other parts like the lid, nipples, and any cap that may come with it. Boil water in a large pot and while it continues to boil, immerse all the bottle parts in it for 5 minutes. For subsequent use, after every feed, wash everything using hot water and a mild soap. Properly clean the nipple hole by squirting water a few times through it. Bottles can also be washed in a dishwasher.
Preparing the Formula
Baby bottle with water
For formula preparation, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not add extra formula and do not dilute it either. Always use iron-fortified formula. Use boiled water that has been cooled down. Always use water that is lukewarm or at room temperature. If your baby prefers warm water, fill the bottle with warm water before you add the formula. Or immerse the bottle in hot water for a few seconds to warm up the contents. Never add cold water and microwave the bottle. Microwave heats food unevenly, and your baby could be at a risk of scalding his mouth. The bottle might even explode inside the microwave.

After you have prepared the formula, shake the bottle well, and do a temperature test. Allow a drop to trickle on the back of your palm or the inside of your wrist and see how warm it is. Any formula that’s left in the bottle after a feeding must be discarded. Unused prepared formula should be refrigerated right away. Do not use prepared formula that has been lying in the bottle, unrefrigerated for over an hour.

Positioning the Baby
Mother holding baby
Before you hold the baby, make sure you are sitting comfortably. Tie a bib around the baby. Now pick up the baby and hold him close, at a slight incline (the head should be higher than the rest of the body). This prevents the buildup of gas and helps the baby to swallow and breathe comfortably. Put the nipple against the baby’s lips and hold the bottle such that the neck of the bottle and nipple is filled with milk. If it’s not, the baby will swallow in a lot of air. Support your baby’s head throughout the feed. Never feed a baby lying on his back. This is dangerous as babies can choke and such feeding puts them at greater risk of ear infections. Never leave the baby alone with a bottle, propped up against a pillow.
How Much Milk Should the Baby Drink
Baby bottle containing milk
For a newborn, start off with not more than 2 ounces for a single feeding. Increase the quantity gradually, when your baby finishes all at one go and look for cues that he is hungry for more. A hungry infant might continue to suck even after emptying the bottle. In such a case, offer more milk or formula. For an infant that has made the switch to a bottle, give him as many ounces of milk as half his weight. Don’t expect your baby to finish everything at one go, and don’t force it either. Babies instinctively know when they are full, and will stop feeding automatically by turning away their mouths and looking uninterested. If you are worried whether your baby has had enough milk, notice the signs which tell you he is feeling contented after a feeding and check whether he is gaining weight regularly.

Once the baby has finished feeding, you must burp the baby. At all times keep a burp cloth ready. Gently put the baby on his stomach over a burp cloth and slide your hands over his back a few times till you hear a burp. Or hold him such that his head is over your shoulder, and pat his back gently. You might want to drape the burp cloth over your shoulder when you burp him this way. Babies might not always emit an audible burp. But rubbing your hands over his back and patting him will eliminate the buildup of air bubbles from his body.

When and how to start bottle feeding is an entirely personal decision, and should not be influenced by what others say or think. If you have any doubts, voice them to the pediatrician, he or she is the best person to guide you when it comes to the well-being of your baby. Every baby will have his unique feeding schedule and it will be some time before both you and the baby adjust to it. Bottle feeding provides you with an opportunity to hold and snuggle your baby close, so utilize this time to build a strong, everlasting bond with your little one.

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I am a father of three and my wife is a registered nurse specialized in children.

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