Formula feeding

Formula feeding

There are several reasons why you may need to formula feed your baby. Some women are unable to breastfeed or make the choice not to breastfeed. In other cases, mothers feel they are not producing enough milk for their baby and need to supplement with formula.

Breastfeeding is widely recognized as nature’s best source of nutrition for optimal growth and development of babies. Breastfeeding also benefits a baby’s mother, as it reduces her risk for breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis. During the first month of your baby’s life, your breast milk supply becomes established.

You may feel as if you are not producing enough breast milk for your baby. If this is the case, don’t stop breastfeeding.

Instead, talk to a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding specialist, or your doctor for help. If you start your baby on a bottle before your milk supply is well established, your breast milk supply could decrease to the point that it may be difficult to breastfeed at all.

If there is a specific reason why you must stop breastfeeding, or if you have made an informed decision not to breastfeed, you should feel comfortable with your decision to bottle feed.

It is best to use a cow’s milk-based iron fortified infant formula. You can also use an infant formula as a supplement, even after your milk supply has been well established, if you cannot provide expressed milk for your baby. Do not use regular cow’s milk to feed your baby before 12 months of age, because it may lead to iron deficiency anemia and allergies.

What is baby formula made of?

Most baby formulas are derived from cow’s milk, but they contain an appropriate balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to help your baby grow and develop properly. Rarely, cow’s milk protein allergy occurs or lactose intolerance develops. If you are concerned about this possibility, speak to your doctor to find out which types of formula are best for your baby.

Although baby formulas are designed with nutritional elements to make them as close to breast milk as possible, all substitute feeding preparations contain far fewer ingredients than have been identified in human milk. Of the over 200 identified elements of human milk that interact in this complex fluid, only about 30 can be artificially produced in infant formula. In newer formulas, scientists have found a way to add omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, breast milk ingredients thought to be important in eye and brain development.

Most baby formulas contain lactose as the only carbohydrate, just like breast milk. Lactose helps with digestion, normal bowel function, and healthy tissue formation. Formulas also contain protein for growth and easily digestible fats that help to protect your baby’s skin and aid the absorption of certain vitamins.

Formulas include the following essential vitamins:

  • vitamin A for building body cells and good vision
  • B vitamins for maintaining the nervous system, skin, and tissues
  • vitamin C for the gums and teeth
  • vitamin D to maintain strong bones and teeth
  • vitamin E for healthy red blood cells

Baby formulas also contain important minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth, and iron to prevent iron deficiency anemia. All formula-fed infants should be given a formula that is iron-fortified. The level of iron that is in the formula is not enough to cause diarrhea or constipation.

Preparing baby formula

Baby formulas are available in three forms: powder, concentrated liquid, and ready-to-serve liquid. Ready-to-use formula can be poured directly into your baby’s bottle and fed to them as-is. This is especially convenient if you are travelling. Concentrated liquids and powdered formula need to be mixed with boiled water or commercially prepared sterilized water for the first four months of life, in the amounts specified by the manufacturer. Measure carefully and mix well to make sure your baby receives the right concentration of formula. Do not add extra formula, and never dilute the mixture with extra water.

Boil the water for two to five minutes before using it to make formula.

If you warm your baby’s bottle, test the temperature of the formula before giving it to your baby. Avoid warming the bottle in the microwave, as hot spots may occur that may affect the nutrients and the anti-infection properties of the formula. These hot spots may also burn the baby's mouth. Instead, hold the bottle under warm running water or place it in a bottle warmer. Make sure to mix the formula well once it has been heated.

Once the formula has been prepared, use or refrigerate it immediately. Freshly prepared formula can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Throw away any prepared formula that has been standing at room temperature for more than one hour. After the feeding, throw away any formula that remains in the bottle.

Schedules and amounts

Newborn babies often take about 30 mL (one ounce) of formula per feeding, and this increases to about 60 mL to 90 mL (two to three ounces) by the end of the first week. Your baby will probably need about eight feedings per day for the first three weeks of life. After that, the number of feedings per day will decrease but the amount taken at each feeding will increase. Let your baby decide how much formula they want; do not force them to finish off a bottle. If your baby is not hungry at some feedings, consider stretching out the time between feedings.

Before feeding your baby, check how quickly the formula drops from the nipple. A clean nipple should drip about one drop per second when the bottle is held upside down. A clogged nipple could stretch out the feeding time.

Feeding your baby

Feeding time should be relaxing – a time not just to provide food for your baby but also to bond with them. Hold your baby semi-upright with their head in the crook of your arm to reduce choking. This position will also reduce the risk of milk flowing into your baby’s middle ear. Hold the bottle tilted so that the nipple and neck of the bottle are filled with milk, to prevent your baby from taking in too much air.

Burping is not a necessity. Air in the stomach does not cause pain. However, burping can decrease spitting up. You should try to burp your baby after each feed, but don’t be concerned if they don’t burp. If air needs to be released from their stomach, it will come up during a burp attempt, but this may not happen every time. If you choose to burp your baby, wait until they stop feeding.

Preventing baby bottle tooth decay

Liquids tend to pool in the mouth when your baby is sleeping. Therefore, if you put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or any other sweetened liquid, it can cause tooth decay. You can prevent this problem by not giving your baby a bottle when they sleep. If you must give them a bottle at this time, fill it with water instead of milk.

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