Top Tips for successful bottle-feeding by Gina Ford
A bottle-fed baby will need as much guidance into a routine as a breast-fed one. The main difference in feeding a baby formula (apart from the fact that someone else can give the feeds) is that you don't have to worry about what you eat and drink. If you have decided to bottle-feed, the same routines as breast-feeding should be followed. Your baby may be happier to go longer than three hours after the 7am feed. If you need to split feeds, such as before a bath, use two smaller, separate feeds.
Health authorities advise that a baby under four months needs 75ml (2 1/2oz) of milk for each pound of his body weight; a baby weighing around 3kg (7lb) would need approximately 510ml (18oz) a day. That amount would be divided into six feeds a day. This is only a guideline; hungrier babies might need an extra 30ml (1oz) at some feeds. If your baby is one of these, try to ensure that you structure the feeds so that he is taking the bigger ones at the right time, i.e. 7am, 10.30am or 10.30pm. If you allow him to get into the habit of having bigger feeds in the middle of the night, it will eventually have the knock-on effect of his not being so hungry when he wakes in the morning. A vicious circle emerges, where he needs to feed in the night because he does not feed enough during the day.
The same guidelines apply as for breast-feeding. Aim to get the baby to take most of his daily milk requirements between 7am and 2pm. This way he will need only a small feed in the middle of the night, and will eventually drop it altogether.
Note that there are two main brands of formula milk: both are approved by the health authorities and there is very little difference between them.
Tips for bottle-feeding
- Never heat up formula in the microwave: either use an electric bottle warmer or stand the bottle in a jug of boiling water.
- Always test the temperature of a feed before giving it to your baby. Just shake a few drops on the inside of your wrist; it should feel lukewarm.
- Never reheat milk that has already been heated; this increases bacteria levels and can lead to upset tummies.
- You will soon get into the routine of making up the feeds needed for the next 24 hours. Choose a quiet time and carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions. Discard any leftover feed from the previous day and do not save unfinished feeds.
- Use a feed that has been heated up within one hour.
- Have an extra bottle of boiled water in the fridge for making up emergency feeds.
- You must pay the utmost attention to hygiene: sterilise all the feeding equipment and ensure that preparation and storage areas are spotlessly clean. A handy tip is to keep a separate kettle for boiling water for feeds - then you can be sure fresh water is used each time and only boiled once.
- As with breast-feeding, prepare everything in advance and ensure that you are sitting comfortably.
- Bottle-feeding can lead to the baby taking in more air than during breast-feeding; some babies will take most of their feed, burp and then want a break of 10-15 minutes before finishing the remainder. Allow up to 40 minutes for a full feed.
- If you find your baby is taking a very long time to feed, or keeps falling asleep halfway through, it could be because the hole in the teat is too small; move on to a medium-flow teat.
- It is easy for bottle-fed babies to gain weight too quickly if they are allowed feeds well in excess of the recommended amounts. A few extra ounces a day should not create a problem, but overeating babies will soon not be satisfied by milk alone.