Bottle feeding a baby isn’t a horribly difficult process, but like most parenting tasks there are tricks, tips, and facts to make the process easier. Our guide on everything you need to know about bottle feeding will walk you through the entire process of how to bottle feed a baby from choosing a bottle and preparing it for use while answering your questions along the way and offering helpful tips and tricks.
One of the most important points in bottle feeding a baby is knowing when and how much to feed.
When to Feed a Baby:
The majority of pediatricians agree that demand feeding is the best way to decide when to feed a baby. Demand feeding, also sometimes called cue feeding, means you feed your baby when he/she is hungry for as long as he/she wishes to eat. You don’t need a baby feeding chart, just let your baby tell you when its time to feed.
How will your baby tell you? To know when to bottle feed your baby watch for cues in behavior that indicate hunger including:
– Side-to-side head movement, as if looking for something.
-Turning towards breast or towards your hand when cheek is touched.
-Sucking on hands, arms, etc.
-Opening of the mouth repeatedly and possibly sticking out tongue.
-Puckering lips or making sucking motions.
It’s unusual for feedings to be stretched more than 5-6 hours apart in formula-fed babies, and 3-4 hours in breast-milk fed babies. The average newborn is hungry every 2-3 hours, though this often slows with age.
How much to bottle feed a baby:
How much to feed is also dependent on your baby’s needs. Every baby will be different, and the right amount may fluctuate with age, what’s being offered, baby size, appetite, and more. The typical newborn infant eats 2-3 ounces every feeding, but you can get a better estimate based on your baby’s weight. Per pound most babies need about 45 calories to grow. So, say your baby is 11 lbs, his/her caloric need is 45 x 11 or 495 a day. For formula, the next step is as easy as checking the label for calories per ounce. In breast milk bottles, an oz has about 20 calories.
When your baby is full, he/she will lose interest in food, stop sucking, or pull away and turn his/her head from the bottle. As long as your baby is showing healthy weight gain and wetting at least one diaper every three hours or three diapers every twenty four hours, you’re doing just fine.
Now that you know when and how much to feed a baby, your going to need something to feed with, which means….
How to Choose Baby Bottles
The bottle you choose for your baby can really affect how well the bottle feeding experience goes, but, unfortunately no guide can tell you which bottle to pick. A bottle that works great for one baby, may not for another. Generally, your baby will have more say in which bottle you chose than you do, so when first beginning bottle feeding, you may want to buy a few different types of bottles and experiment. I may not be able to tell you exactly how to choose a baby bottle, but I can explain the various options available.
A typical bottle consists of two parts, a base and a nipple.
Baby Bottle Bases:
For the bottle base, there are two primary material choices, glass or plastic, but the shape of the bottle itself can vary greatly by brand. Overall, you’ll see four main types in either material.
This is your typical baby bottle. Straight bottles are said to be easiest for babies to hold. Straight bottles may also come in a slightly hourglass shape, where the middle is narrower for little hands.
These bottles have an angle to them. The bend in the bottle is meant to reduce the amount of air your baby ends up sucking in by keeping the milk at the top of the bottle.
Disposable Liner Bottles:
These bottles are actually a shell which holds a plastic insert in which milk is placed. The insert is disposed of after use.
Round bottles are relatively new and not very common. The base is usually oval in shape with a flat bottom so the bottle can be set down. Much like bent bottles this is an effort to reduce the air your baby gets while feeding.
Glass versus Plastic:
Plastic bottles are basically impossible for a baby to break and often slightly lighter weight while being less expensive. However, plastic bottles do eventually begin to deteriorate and will need to be replaced. Plastic bottles that do not say “BPA free” may leak bisphenol-A into milk if boiled. A baby’s bottle should NEVER be brought to the boiling point.
Glass bottles will never need to be replaced unless broken, chipped, or cracked, but they are also more expensive and heavier than plastic bottles.
Baby Bottle Nipples:
Bottle nipples typically come in three materials: plastic, silicone, and latex. Rubber and silicone nipples both are firmer and will last longer, while latex is softer, more malleable, and may wear out a bit quicker.
In addition to material there are also varies nipple shapes, sizes, and flow rates.
Traditional: Is your standard nipple.
Orthodontic: Produced by companies such as Nuk, these nipples are designed to fit the shape of your child’s palate.
Nipple Sizes and Flow Rates:
Nipples come in varying sizes based on the bottle type. Typically wider nipples are better for breast fed babies or babies that are being switched between bottle and breast as the wider nipple is closer to the feel of a breast, but some babies prefer the narrower nipples anyway. You can also find bottles with varying nipple length. Some feel a long nipple a nice alternative to the wide-style for breast-fed babies.
Flow rate is determined by age, though some babies drink faster or slower than their age determined nipple. When buying a bottle it should indicate a flow rate and age range. Flow rate is determined by the size and number of holes in the nipple.
Once you have your bottle it needs to be prepared for use and filled.
How to sterilize baby bottles:
Once upon a time it was suggested that all nipples and bottles be sterilized. Today it’s believed that a good hot washing with soap and water is sufficient.
None the less, if you wish to sterilize, this can be done by boiling water and placing the items in them for at least 5 minutes. There are also many bottle sterilizing systems out on the market today. As a mid-point many parents sterilize new bottles and nipples once before use. Be sure to let the items air dry before using.
The final step in how to bottle feed is to fill the bottle and feed your baby. You can use formula or breast milk.
How to Heat the Milk:
Formula can be made with warm water to avoid the need for heating. If the formula has been refrigerated or you are serving pumped or stored breast milk you can heat it by placing the bottle in a pan of warm water on the stove or simply by running hot water over it. Never use boiling water or actually heat formula or breast milk in a pan on the stove. Bottles also should not be microwaved as this may cause heat spots which can burn your baby. In cases other than cow’s milk, it also leads to a reduction in nutrients. Today there are also specialized bottle warmers you can buy to keep bottles toasty and ready if you prefer.
How to Bottle Feed:
Avoid propping a bottle or leaving your baby unattended while bottle feeding as this can result in choking. Once your baby falls asleep and stops eating, you should remove the bottle. Even if your baby is not actively feeding, sleeping with a bottle can cause tooth decay. Its recommended you hold your baby during feedings, but you can opt for any position that feels comfortable so long as your baby is not lying flat on his/her back. A forty-five degree angle should be kept to prevent milk from entering the delicate tubes of the inner ear which can cause ear infections.
Finally, be sure that the nipple of the bottle is always full. Failing to do so will cause your baby to swallow air and lead to uncomfortable gas. You can remedy an empty nipple by increasing the tilt at which you are holding the bottle.
Beyond that, your baby will do what comes natural–eat.
We hope this guide on how to bottle feed a baby has helped you. If not, why not? We always love hearing suggestions for page additions.