- How to bottle-feed a baby?
- Care to take while bottle-feeding the baby
- Tips for bottle-feeding at night
- Benefits of bottle-feeding
- Bottle-feeding problems
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to six months (1). Breastfeeding is the best nutritional choice for babies and good for the mother too.
However, breastfeeding might not be practical for all mothers due to insufficient breast milk, medical conditions or a personal choice. In such cases, bottle-feeding is an option. You may also alternate between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding after six months of age.
How To Bottle-feed A Baby?
Bottle-feeding is the process of giving formula milk to an infant, through a bottle.
Though both bottle and breast feedings involve latching problems, your baby might take more time to get used to the bottle than to the breasts. Here are a few simple ways you can help the baby:
- Get the position right: Fold your hand at the elbow and place your baby’s head in the crook of your arm and the other arm should be around the baby or hold the bottle. The baby’s head should be slightly raised so that she is in a semi-upright position.
Note: Don’t feed the baby while she is lying down as the formula milk can pass into the middle ear causing an ear infection (2).
[ Read: Formula Milk For Baby ]
- Sit face-to-face: An alternative position is to rest your baby with her head on your knees and the feet on your belly. You will be facing each other making enough eye contact while feeding.
- Slant the bottle: When you are feeding, slant the bottle till the teat is full of milk. This decreases the air that your baby might probably gulp in, thereby decreasing the chances of gas in the stomach.
- Use a pillow: Some babies love to be fed while lying on a pillow. Remember to hold the bottle for her and don’t leave her unattended.
Bottle-feeding is not a difficult art to learn. Some basic care will be good enough for you to master it.
Care To Take While Bottle-feeding The Baby
Some babies refuse to drink from the bottle. It can be a challenging task to get them used to the bottle. Try these tricks:
- Feed when the baby is hungry: Sticking to a feeding schedule might not work with bottle-feeding. Babies are likely to have two ounces of milk in one hour. Look out for signs of hunger such as sucking thumb, getting fussy or squirmy, and then feed accordingly. Your baby will feed at least 8-10 times during the day, so make sure you have enough bottles to feed them.
- Never force the baby: Don’t force the nipple into your baby’s mouth. If your baby is not in a mood to eat, don’t force them. That can result in negative association with the feeding time. Give them a break.
- Check the nipple: Check if your baby is comfortable with the nipple. If they are not getting used to it, change the model of the nipple. You may try a couple of them before figuring out which one suits the best for your baby. If your baby is on a pacifier, try a nipple with the same shape.
- Observe the flow of milk: Make sure that the milk is flowing slowly and consistently. Your baby should be sucking more or less than what they can gulp comfortably. Too much flow of milk can suffocate them, and too less will leave the baby fussy and dissatisfied. Keep the flow of the milk at a medium pace.
- Check the plastic: If you are buying plastic feeding bottles, buy food grade plasticware that is BPA-free (3) or go for glass feeding bottles. Remember to sterilize the new bottles before using unless there are any specific instructions.
- Sterilize the bottles: This is the most important thing to do when you are bottle-feeding your baby. Sterilize the bottles with filtered water even if you are using a steam sterilizer. Dry the bottles and keep them in an airtight container to avoid contamination.
- Preparing formula: Wash your hands before preparing the formula. Use tongs to remove the sterilized bottle. Pour the desired amount of water and formula powder into the bottle, close the bottle and shake well. Make sure there are no lumps left. Discard the unused formula.
[ Read: Breastfeeding Vs Formula Feeding ]
- Measure the formula: Follow the instructions on the pack for preparing the formula. If the formula is too much or less, your baby’s tummy can get upset or they might not get the right amount of nutrients.
- Check the temperature of the feed: The feed shouldn’t be too hot or cold. It should be just warm. You can check the temperature by placing a drop of milk on your wrist or by placing the bottle on your wrist.
- Don’t warm the bottle in the microwave: If you want to warm the bottle, use a bottle warmer or immerse it in a vessel of warm water. Microwaving does breaks down the nutrients in the formula and also warms it unevenly.
- Clean the bottles: Clean the nipples, retaining rings, and the bottles with warm soapy water using a bottle brush. Rotate the brush inside the bottle to remove any residue of milk or milk powder. Ensure there are no traces of milk and rinse them thoroughly.
- Keep a check on the bottle equipment: Babies have soft gums but they will soon start teething and bite the teats. The teats are soft and can be easily damaged. You need to regularly check the bottles and nipples for any cracks or splits and replace them immediately. There is a chance of bacteria getting accumulated in such places.
- Air bubbles in the bottle: Keep an eye on the air bubbles, if any, in the bottle. When you see them stop feeding and restart after the air is gone. Air can lead to colic in babies (4).
These basic measures will help your baby get used to the bottle. But, bottle-feeding at night is not going to be easy unless you are prepared and organized.
[ Read: Tips To Stop Bottle Feeding ]
Tips For Bottle-feeding At Night
Getting up in the middle of the night, preparing the formula while the baby is crying, and then feeding them, is a nightmare. These tips will ease bottle-feeding at night:
- Keep everything ready: Keep warm water in a thermos, measure the formula and keep it in the bottles depending on how many times your baby would have the formula. Once he wakes up, just add the warm water, mix and feed it to the baby. You can also use ready-to-feed formula at room temperature; all you need to do is open the pack and put it in the bottle.
- Be organized: Whether it’s the feeding bottles, water, nappies or wipes, keep them all handy on the bedside table so that you don’t waste time looking for it.
- Have skin contact while feeding: The skin-to-skin contact helps in bonding. Even when the baby is sleeping they can sense the touch of a mother, so make sure that you hold them close while feeding.
- Let your partner feed sometimes: You don’t have to feed the baby always but take turns with your husband. You both may talk and agree on who will get up on that particular night. Let the dad take over the feeding ritual and bond with the baby.
- Keep the lights dim: Create a sleep routine with dim lights so that the environment induces sleep instead of making the baby stay awake after feeding.
- Burp your baby: Burping is required during the night as well to avoid trapped air in the belly.
Once you follow these tips, bottle-feeding becomes convenient. But is it good for the baby?
Benefits Of Bottle-feeding
Whether you have opted for bottle-feeding by choice or because of circumstances, there is no reason to worry. It is absolutely healthy and a good alternative to breastfeeding. Here are the benefits of bottle-feeding:
- You don’t have to be confined to home or find it difficult to feed the little one in public places.
- Commercial formulas are manufactured under high standards of hygiene. The formula is prepared to meet the nutritious levels of breastmilk. The formula provides the essential nutrients and vitamins required for the baby to grow.
- You can measure the quantity of formula your baby is having, and that helps keep a check on the intake as per their age.
- It’s convenient for the mother or the caretaker to feed the baby with a bottle at any given time. It also makes the father more responsible and involved in feeding the child and helps in bonding with them.
- Feeding the baby with formula is flexible and easy. Once the formula is ready, the mother can give it to someone responsible for feeding the baby. It gives her time to relax or involve in other activities.
- The baby takes the formula feed less frequently than breastfeed because the former takes more time to digest. So, it keeps them full for a longer time.
- Mothers of the babies, who are on formula, need not worry about their diet, unlike the breastfeeding moms who have to avoid certain foods for fear of intolerance or allergies in babies.
Practically, bottle-feeding is easier than breastfeeding, but it is not free from drawbacks.
[ Read: Supplementing Breastfeeding With Formula ]
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition a baby can get. Here are some disadvantages of bottle-feeding:
- Slow digestion: Formula milk takes more time to digest. Formula-fed babies are more likely to suffer from indigestion and gas than breastfed babies.
- Tedious: Cleaning and sterilizing the bottles is too much of work. Unlike breastfeeding, this requires you to get up, clean the bottle and prepare the formula even if you are dead tired.
- Time consuming: Preparing the formula takes time and then you cannot store it. The remaining formula has to be discarded and is wasted.
- Costly: Formula is expensive and so are the bottles and other equipment. It comes at a cost.
- Need to be cautious: You have to be cautious about hygiene and safety. The bottles have to be sterilized well, dried, and kept in airtight containers.
- Selecting the right brand: The brand used in the hospitals might not be good always. So choosing the best formula is always challenging.
- Trouble while traveling: Carrying the bottles and other equipment and formula while traveling can be a hassle.
Bottle-feeding has its advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on your choice and circumstances. Choose what’s right for you and the baby. While breastfeed should be the first choice for the baby, do not feel guilty about bottle-feeding the baby under certain circumstances.
Do you have anything to share about bottle-feeding the babies? Leave your comments below.
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