Any trip through the baby feeding aisle at your local grocery or department store might leave you reeling. There are so many choices! How will you ever decide what you need for your newborn? First, you will need to consider if you are going to breastfeed or bottle feed. If you’re breastfeeding, you may still need a few bottles, but if you’re bottle feeding, you will need more. And while bottle feeding may seem like a simple choice, there are still points to consider - how will I know when to feed my baby? How much should I put in each bottle? and more.
1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing: If you would like to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, don’t hesitate to do so. While your breasts do need regular stimulation to keep up a good milk supply, you may decide there are certain times when you want to use a bottle whether it’s filled with expressed breastmilk or formula. Your supply may decrease if too many breastfeedings are replaced by bottle feeding, so you may need to pump more often. Newborns do not need water, juice or teas - so stick to either breastmilk or formula. If you’re planning to use both breastmilk and formula for a single feeding, experts recommend not combining them in the same bottle. Feed the expressed breastmilk first, then the formula.
2. You can bond with your baby regardless of feeding method: When bottle feeding a newborn, relax and get yourself comfortable - feedings may be the calmest times of day with your newborn. Let go of your to-do list and all the mental clutter and focus on your baby. You can be cuddled together, even skin to skin. You can talk to your baby, gaze into his eyes, snuggle with him and just enjoy your time together. When bottle feeding, your baby will benefit from switching sides halfway through a feeding. Never prop a bottle for feedings.
3. Choosing a bottle nipple may make a difference: Bottle nipples come in different flow rates - slow flow, preemie, size 1, size 2, etc. One brand’s slow flow may be different than another’s. They also come in different shapes, and your baby may simply prefer one over the others. It’s hard to know which will work best for your baby, so you may have some trial and error. If you find that each time you are bottle feeding your newborn he is choking and sputtering often and burping or spitting up often, you might need a slower flow nipple. If he is taking an excessively long time to finish or seems frustrated and sucking hard, you may need a faster flow. If you are going back and forth between breast and bottle feeding, you may want to use a slow flow nipple.
4. Don’t overfeed: Babies need to eat about 2½ ounces of breastmilk or formula per pound of bodyweight per day - this averages about 24-32 ounce each day. As your baby gets older, the amount will stay the same, but he may eat less often. So, an 8-pound newborn who is feeding 10 times per day will need about 2 ounces at each feeding. But a 20-pound 6-month-old who is eating 8 times per day may need 6 ounces at each feeding. These are just averages - your baby may need and may change how much he takes at different feedings during the day. After all, sometimes we are hungry for a meal and sometimes we just want a snack. Allow your baby to determine when a feeding is over - he may push the bottle nipple out of his mouth, turn his head away or fall asleep. If he is still hungry after the bottle is empty, you can offer a little more to see if he wants to continue eating. Keep track of how much your baby is getting – your baby’s physician will probably want to know at check-ups.
5. Watch your baby’s cues: If you’re watching your baby’s cues for when he’s full, you can also watch for feeding cues to let you know when he’s hungry. Rather than relying on the clock, count on your baby to let you know when he is ready for another bottle feeding. It may be right when he wakes from a nap or when he is starting to get fussy, smack his lips, or suck his hands. Never force the nipple into baby’s mouth. Instead tickle his lips and allow him to latch onto the bottle nipple. Allow your baby to pause often when bottle feeding. Try to burp your baby part way through the feeding, but if she seems fussy or turns away after taking only a little of the bottle, take more burping breaks.
6. Some positions are better than others: You want to keep you baby at an angle rather than lying flat, which could cause him to swallow too much air. And you want to be sure his head and neck are comfortably aligned. As your baby gets bigger (and heavier), you may find you need a pillow (or the arm of a chair) to support your arm. You can keep your baby snuggled in towards you (rather than having him facing out and away from you). Not only will this allow you to interact with him more, it will help you to see his cues more easily. Keep the bottle nipple filled with breastmilk or formula, but try to keep it more level to allow baby to regulate the flow a little more easily.
7. Safety is key: If you are using formula, follow the directions for boiling water and measure the formula every time. It can be tempting to eyeball the amount of powder needed to make a bottle after you’ve done it often enough, but you want to be sure you are mixing the exact proportions of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to the water. Follow sterilizations instructions for the bottles and nipples you have decided to use, as well as your breast pump if you are using expressed breastmilk. Always wash your hands before pumping or preparing a bottle. If your baby doesn’t finish the whole bottle, you should discard any remaining formula after 1 hour since it could grow bacteria that could make your baby sick.
8. Warming may not be needed: Some babies will accept a bottle of breastmilk or formula at room temperature or even cold. If you do want to warm a bottle, you can do so under running water or in a bowl of hot water. Never use the microwave to heat a bottle as it may cause uneven heating and hot spots that could burn your little one. Always test the temperature before feeding.
9. Replace parts over time: Every now and then, make sure all the parts of your bottles are still in good working order. Frequent sterilization can cause changes to nipple holes, baby may begin biting on the nipple as teething starts, or your baby may just need a faster flow nipple.
10. Babies have preferences: Choosing the right bottle can be a challenge with all the choices available on the market. And the bottle recommended by friends or the one that you like the best may not be your baby’s choice! Have a couple of different bottles on hand and let your baby decide. You want to consider things like ease of cleaning and replacement parts (does the bottle take special bags you’ll need to stock up on, for instance). This guide may be helpful in your research about bottles. But ultimately the baby will let you know what he likes.