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Bottle-Feeding: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Your reasons for wanting to bottle-feed your baby with formula are personal. You and your partner can make the best decision for you and your baby. Formulas can provide all the calories and nutrients your baby needs in the first 6 months of life.

Several types of formulas are available. There are many types of iron-fortified infant formulas for you to choose from. Most of the time, parents start with formulas made from cow's milk. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying other types of formulas, which include soy and lactose-free formulas. At first, preparing the bottles and formula can seem confusing, but it gets easier and faster with some practise.

Your newborn baby probably will want to eat every 2 to 3 hours. Do not worry about the exact timing for the first few weeks, but feed your baby whenever he or she is hungry. In general, your baby should not go longer than 4 hours without eating during the day for the first few months. Sit in a comfortable chair with your arms supported on pillows. Look into your baby's eyes and talk or sing while you are giving the bottle. Enjoy this special time you have with your baby.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your healthcare provider or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes. At each routine visit, talk to your healthcare provider about your baby's nutritional needs, which change as he or she grows and develops.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Prepare your supplies for bottle-feeding before your baby is born, if possible.
    • Have a supply of small bottles (usually 4 ounces) for your baby's first few weeks.
    • You may want to buy a variety of bottle nipples so you can see which type your baby likes.
    • Before using bottles and nipples the first time, wash them in hot water and dish soap and rinse with hot water.
  • Ask your healthcare provider which formula to use. You can buy formula as a liquid concentrate or a powder that you mix with water. Formulas also come in a ready-to-feed form. Always use formula with added iron unless the healthcare provider says not to.
  • Make sure you have clean, safe water to mix with the formula. Boil water—even bottled water—for 2 minutes, and let it cool before mixing it with formula.
  • Wash your hands before preparing formula.
  • Read the label to see how much water to mix with the formula. If you add too little water, it can upset your baby's stomach. If you add too much water, your baby will not get the right nutrition.
  • Cover the prepared formula and store it in a refrigerator. Use it within 24 hours.
  • Soak dirty baby bottles and nipples in water and dish soap. Wash bottles and nipples in the upper rack of the dishwasher or hand-wash them in hot water with dish soap. For infants, sterilize the washed bottles and nipples by boiling in an open pot of clean water for 2 minutes. Let the bottles and nipples air dry.

To bottle-feed your baby

  • Warm the formula to room temperature or body temperature before feeding. The best way to warm it is in a bowl of heated water. Do not use a microwave, which can cause hot spots in the formula that can burn your baby's mouth.
  • Before feeding your baby, check the temperature of the formula by dripping 2 or 3 drops on the inside of your wrist. It should be warm, not cold or hot.
  • Place a bib or cloth under your baby's chin to help keep clothes clean. Have a second cloth handy to use when burping your baby.
  • Support your baby with one arm, with your baby's head resting in the bend of your elbow. Keep your baby's head higher than his or her chest.
  • Stroke the centre of your baby's lower lip to encourage the mouth to open wider. A wide mouth will cover more of the nipple and will help reduce the amount of air the baby sucks in.
  • Angle the bottle so the neck of the bottle and the nipple stay full of milk. This helps reduce how much air your baby swallows.
  • Do not prop the bottle in your baby's mouth or let him or her hold it alone. This increases your baby's chances of choking or getting ear infections.
  • During the first few weeks, burp your baby after every 2 ounces of formula. This helps get rid of swallowed air and reduces spitting up.
  • You will know your baby is full when he or she stops sucking. Your baby may spit out the nipple, turn his or her head away, or fall asleep when full. Newborn babies usually drink from 1 to 3 ounces each feeding.
  • Throw away any formula left in the bottle after you have fed your baby. Bacteria can grow in the leftover formula.
  • It can be helpful to hold your baby upright for about 30 minutes after eating to reduce spitting up.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your healthcare provider or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not seem to be growing and gaining weight.
  • Your child has trouble passing stools, or his or her stools are hard and dry.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • Your child has diarrhea or a skin rash.
  • Your child cries most of the time.
  • Your child has gas, bloating, or cramps after drinking a bottle.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.