Whether you are starting your newborn on formula, offering an occasional bottle to a breastfed baby or weaning an older baby to formula, careful preparation is important.
• What kind? An iron-fortified formula based on cow’s milk is recommended for most babies. Special formulas are available for premature or allergic infants — consult your doctor about which type is best for your baby.
• Sterilize all feeding equipment until your baby is about five months of age by boiling for at least five minutes in a large pot with a lid. Your maternity hospital or public health unit can give you detailed instructions on proper sterilization.
• Mix precisely. Some formula comes ready to serve; other types must be diluted with water. Improperly mixed formula can be harmful to your baby, so check the instructions carefully.
• Store formula carefully. Refrigerate unused bottles of formula and use within 24 hours. For a newborn, discard any formula remaining after a feeding. For an older baby, refrigerate promptly and reheat only once.
• Warm the bottle in a pan of hot water just before feeding. Don’t use a microwave, as it may cause “hot spots” that can scald the baby. Test the temperature by shaking the bottle gently, then letting it drip on the inside of your wrist.
• Follow your baby’s cues. Babies are the best judge of when they are hungry and how much they should eat. Offer the bottle whenever your baby seems hungry, but don’t urge her to finish.
• Hold your baby. Cradle your baby in your arm with her head tilted back slightly. Keep the bottle tilted up and the nipple always full to prevent her from swallowing air. Burp her frequently in the early weeks.
Never leave a baby with a propped bottle. Not only is choking a serious danger, but your baby needs the closeness and cuddling. And feeling a hungry baby relax with contentment as she is fed is one of the pleasures of parenthood — whichever feeding method you use.