While formula doesn’t pass on the infection-fighting antibodies that breast milk contains, scientific advances have made it so that most iron-rich formulas on the shelf will provide your baby with the needed nutrients found in breast milk. And while formula-feeding doesn’t come with the physical demands and weeks of practice, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind when feeding your baby with formula:
- Always check the expiration date and the labels on the formula, as some are “ready to feed” and others are “concentrate.”
- Ask your pediatrician which kind of formula to use. Cow milk-based formula is the most common, but in certain cases soy-based formula might be better.
- Wash the top of the container with soap and water to remove any dirt from the lid, and wash your hands before preparing the formula.
- Read the instructions on the formula container carefully, as not following the diluting directions can be dangerous.
- Cover any unused formula in the refrigerator, but make sure you use it within 48 hours. If you don’t, toss it.
- If your baby prefers, warm the bottle in hot water or in a purchased bottle warmer, but never in the microwave because hot spots could burn your baby’s mouth. Technically, babies don’t need to drink warm milk, and starting that habit might make it hard to feed on-the-go, where a bottle warmer isn’t always available.
- Throw out any formula left in the bottle, as bacteria will grow quickly in the bottle.
- You don’t need to sterilize the bottles, nipples or water with any special equipment. You might want to submerge the bottles in boiling water before the first use, but other than that, soap and water is all that’s needed.
Other tips for bottle-feeding include:
- Tilt the bottle so formula fills the nipple. This way your baby won’t have a belly full of gas and a night full of pain. However, there are bottles on the market that eliminate this, like those with disposable bottle liners that deflate and eliminate air pockets or the angled bottles that automatically keep the nipple filled with formula.
- Don’t be concerned if your baby doesn’t eat much. If your baby was breastfeeding, he might only be taking a couple teaspoons of colostrum right now. If he or she seems full after half an ounce, call it quits.
- Since you don’t have the nighttime convenience of simply lifting up your shirt to feed, invest in a portable bottle holder to keep by your bed, preferably one that keeps bottles cold and then has a compartment to heat them. This way you don’t have to trudge out to the kitchen every couple of hours.
- Never leave the baby with a propped bottle. Not only does this take away from the emotional bonding feeding provides, but it can make the baby more susceptible to ear infections and choking.