The first year of your baby’s life is an exciting one, but it can come with a lot of challenges. If you’re a first time parent, you will know all too well the struggle of trying to figure out how to do things correctly. It’s a time of learning about your baby’s needs, and people from every corner of your life will have their own ideas about how you should raise your child.
With that in mind, it can often be difficult to know how to bottle feed your baby in the right way to give them the best start in life. There are so many different things to consider that it can be overwhelming, especially when you haven’t had much sleep! For that reason, we’re here to help you to know exactly what you need to know when it comes to bottle feeding your baby.
Without further ado, here is your complete guide to bottle feeding your little one.
Which Baby Bottle to Use
If your baby is showing signs that they are hungry, it’s time to give them that bottle! But what kind of baby bottle should you be using? Well, it can be broken down into different types of bottles, materials, nipple materials and more. Here’s the low down on the kinds of baby bottles out there.
First of all, there are a range of different baby bottle types out there. You need to have a rough idea of which one you want – unless you want to buy them all!
Angle Neck Bottles
These are slightly angled at the neck. This is useful as it helps to ensure that the air doesn’t overly fill the nipple. If your baby often struggles with gas or you find that feedings can be difficult, this may be the bottle type for you. It is worth noting though that they can often be more tricky to clean due to the shape.
Standard Baby Bottles
When you think of a baby bottle, the standard bottle is most likely what you think about. They feature a simple design and they’re universally loved by babies. They can come in a range of different materials and color designs too. They’re available from most retailers, so they’re easy to replace in case one of them gets broken.
Wide Neck Bottles
These are short little bottles but they are wider at the top. It means that they use wider nipples, meaning that this is a great choice for babies that have been breastfed for most of their lives. It’s ideal if you want to make that transition. Not only that, but they’re super easy to clean because of the wide neck.
Disposable Liner Bottles
These bottles are usually plastic outer shells and they have pouches of milk on the inside. When your baby drinks the milk the bag begins to collapse, and this is helpful as it can be good for gassiness. All you need to do when you’re done is take the bag out, toss it in the trash and swill it out with water. It’s not a good choice if you want an eco-friendly option though.
Vented bottles are useful if your baby struggles with gas, since they come with tubes built in that are designed to stop any air pockets from cropping up in the nipple or the bottle. It can usually mean that the bottle is significantly more difficult to clean, however, so it’s worth keeping that in mind.
The next thing to consider when buying a baby bottle is the material that the bottle is made out of. There are a couple of them to choose from. Primarily, you can choose from silicone, stainless steel, plastic or glass. There are good and bad parts of each material. Technically, one is not technically better than the other. It just depends on the needs of your baby.
Glass bottles have come a long way through the years! They aren’t just like the little glass bottles your grandparents used to get on their porch. Glass bottles today are designed with a bunch of extra features. They have been designed to handle shock and heat well. In order to protect the bottle even further, these bottles are sometimes bought with silicone sleeves. They can last a long time, and there’s no need to replace them unless they get damaged.
2. Stainless Steel
These are durable and well insulated to ensure that the milk stays at the designed temperature. They cost quite a bit of money but they’re worth it for the durability that they offer.
This material is a little pricey, much like stainless steel, but it’s also flexible and durable which is a good choice if you don’t want to replace your bottles all the time.
This is the most popular type of baby bottle, since they are so easily found. They’re safe to use, but they can be a little fragile so you need to ensure that they are well cleaned and replaced every couple of months.
The bottle isn’t the only important thing to consider! It’s also vital that you get the right kind of nipple. They can sometimes come with the bottle, but this is not always the case.
You can choose from a range of different nipples based on your baby’s needs. You can choose a traditional nipple, which is basically what you usually see on a baby bottle. If your baby has a sensitive palate then an orthodontic nipple may be suitable due to the bulbous top. Other options include anti-vacuum nipples, multi flow nipples, flat topped nipples and disposable nipples. It’s worth looking into each of them in order to see what will work the best for your baby. Here’s a quick summary:
These are designed to help your baby’s mouth to stay safe. They feature a flatter base than traditional nipples and the top is a bulbous shape.
These tend to be shapes like a bell. They are usually made out of latex, and they are the standard kinds of nipples that will come with your baby bottle when you first buy it.
Anti Vacuum Nipples
If your baby struggles with gassiness and colic, these are the best choice. They help to ensure that your body isn’t taking in too much air from the bottle.
Flat Topped Nipples
These look like your breasts, making them easy to adjust to for your little one. The base is much larger and the top is flat. It may be easier to use this if you are transitioning from breastfeeding.
Multi Flow Nipples
This is a great choice if you’re trying to provide two stages of flow in just one nipple. You can simply change the position to choose the flow.
These are great if you want something easy to clean. They are already sterile and are great if you’re out on the go, but you can only use them one time.
Nipples usually only come in silicone and latex versions. They can both be great, but silicone is the more durable option. They’re also a good choice if your baby suffers from allergies. Latex is good as it’s easier for your baby to use, but it does need to be replaced a lot and there are some babies that have allergies to it.
Bottles and Nipples for Different Ages
If you want to know what age the nipple or bottle is for, check on the rim as this will tell you what stage it is. There are 3 stages in total – newborns begin with the stage 1 nipples, then they move onto stage 2 once they reach a few months old. Finally, when your baby gets to around 6 months old they can then move onto stage 3 nipples.
Stage 1 – This is the newborn stage. Nipples at this stage are slow flow, and this means that the milk comes out slowly based on how your baby’s mouth compresses.
Stage 2 – You will move onto this stage after a couple of months. This is provided when your baby is capable of taking a bigger flow of the milk.
Stage 3 – This isn’t always a necessary stage as some babies are fine with staying on stage 2. If your baby no longer seems to be responding well to the stage 2 nipples though, it may be an indication that it’s time to move onto stage 3 nipples.
How to Bottle Feed Your Baby
Now that you have your bottles, how do you feed your baby? Here’s what to do.
Expressed Breast Milk or Infant Formula
The first thing that you will need to do is prepare the infant formula or bottle. This can be a little scary at first but it does get easier!
The first thing to do is wash all of the things that you are going to use in order to feed the baby. Then, sterilize the bottles.
You’re then going to need to get your formula ready and follow the instructions to make up the baby bottle.
Making Up Baby Bottle
Now onto phase two – making up the baby bottle! If you have powdered formula, this is fairly simple – you just need to follow the instructions on the formula container. It’s usually pretty standard among brands though.
You start with boiling around a litre of water and allowing it to cool for less than half an hour. Wash your hands, then pour the water that you need into your baby bottle. Then, you should add the amount of formula that’s specified for the age of your baby. Make sure that you level it off using a knife. Put the teat back onto it and then shake the bottle until the powder dissolves. Allow it to cool then by putting the bottle under some cold running water. If you test the temperature and it’s okay, then you’re ready to go!
Testing the Temperature
To test the temperature, all you need to do is put a little bit of it onto your wrist. If it’s a little warm but not too hot, then it’s ready for your baby.
Best Positions for Bottle Feeding
Then you need to find the correct position to bottle feed your baby. To start with, sit in a position that’s comfortable for you and prop your baby upwards a little. Make sure that you are supporting their head – you can ensure that they don’t swallow lots of air and you can look in their eyes this way.
Then, tilt the bottle a little and put it in your baby’s mouth. Your baby will then start to feed on the bottle.
How Often to Bottle Feed
This ultimately depends on your baby, since the appetite can change on a regular basis. It’s best to learn their hunger cues so you can tell when they need to be fed.
If your baby is still a newborn then it’s important to feed them regularly throughout the day. Every two or three hours is a good rule of thumb. Don’t force them to eat more than they are naturally eating in one sitting. You’ll need to feed them more food but less often as they get older, so let your baby take the lead.
For the first week or so of your baby’s life, they shouldn’t need much more than around 1 to 3 ounces of milk in each feeding session. This will increase as your baby gets bigger and needs more sustenance. It’s important not to force your baby to drink the whole bottle in one go if they don’t want to though.
If you’re curious about how much you need to feed your baby, take their weight and multiply this by 2.5. This will then tell you the amount of ounces that you should be feeding them each day. For instance, a 10 pound baby would need to eat around 3 to 4 ounces every four hours, amounting to 25 ounces maximum each day. If you have any concerns then it can help to speak to a midwife or pediatrician for further advice.
Signs Baby is Hungry
When it comes to feeding your baby, it’s usually best to take their lead. Follow the signs that they may be hungry, including the following:
- They are putting their hands up to their mouth
- They’re sucking on their hands
- They’re beginning to get fussy
- They start sticking their tongue out
- They begin to open their mouth and tilt the head to one side
Of course, this can differ by the baby, but these are some general signs. Ultimately, nobody knows your child as well as you do, so your baby may show you their own signs that it’s time to eat. Learn to observe your baby’s behavior, as it will often tell you what they need. This can be difficult if you’re a first time parent, but you will eventually get the hang of it.
Paced Bottle Feeding
Paced bottle feeding is a great way to bottle feed your baby, since it resembles what your baby would naturally do if they were breastfeeding. It’s all about following your baby’s lead – pacing the feedings according to what your baby needs at that moment.
Feed your baby when they need to be fed. It can also be helpful to put them in an upright position as this will help them to access the milk a lot more easily. Give them the bottle horizontally to your baby.
Then, it’s just a matter of feeding your baby according to the signs that they give you. This is a simplified explanation of how to do it, however. You can find more advice here.
Heating Formula Safely
When you’re heating your baby’s formula it’s important that you do it safely. First of all, don’t ever try to heat up your baby’s bottle using a microwave. This can result in uneven heating and this can cause hot spots for your baby. Always test the temperature on your wrist too to make sure that it’s the right temperature for your baby.
If the bottle hasn’t been touched and has been left at room temperature for more than two hours, you should throw it away. Be careful when using the kettle or any other heating method too – you don’t want to accidentally burn yourself!
Bottle Feeding Equipment Needed
So what equipment do you need in order to bottle feed your baby? Here’s a quick checklist so that you have everything that you need!
- Around 6 baby bottles – mainly applicable if you are mainly bottle feeding your baby
- Six teats at least to go with the bottles
- A brush to clean the bottle
- Baby milk or formula
- Equipment to sterilize the bottles
- Bibs (not essential, but useful!)
- A kettle
- Muslin cloths for cleaning
There are a lot of other things that you can get to make bottle feeding your baby a lot easier, but you don’t necessarily need to get them. It’s ultimately up to you – not every item that’s marketed to parents on TV is essential, after all.
Bottle Feeding Problems
So are there any risks associated with bottle feeding your baby? Technically, yes, just like there are risks with breastfeeding. Here are just a few of the issues that you may encounter when bottle feeding your baby.
One risk that may come with bottle feeding your baby is choking. This usually comes when your baby is propped up or when you keep the bottle in their mouth. They may be more likely to experience choking because they will struggle to control the milk flow. As such, the force of gravity will mean that the milk continues to flow into your baby’s mouth, and they may not be ready to swallow. You need to be careful, and constantly watch your baby while they are feeding.
Tooth Decay Risk
Propping the bottle can also mean that your baby is more likely to experience tooth decay. This is because the milk can linger in your little one’s mouth. When that’s combined with saliva your baby’s body starts to create acid, and this can result in tooth decay.
Risk of Ear Infections
You heard that right – bottle feeding your baby can even result in ear infections. This is not the case every time they feed from a bottle, however. Basically, if you are feeding them as they lie on their back then there is a higher chance that they may experience an ear infection. The milk and the bacteria that is hanging out in the back of your baby’s mouth can then start to enter the ear thanks to the eustachian tubes. This can then result in an ear infection. You can reduce this risk if you feed your baby in an upright position instead.
Most of the time these issues won’t be severe, but if you have any concerns then you should speak to a pediatrician for further advice.
How to Bond With Your Baby While Bottle Feeding
One big concern that many parents have about bottle feeding a baby is that it can make it harder to bond with their baby. This is not necessarily true! You can still bond with your baby even if you are bottle feeding them. There are a couple of things that you can do.
You can still do skin to skin contact with your baby even if you’re not breastfeeding. All you need to do is remove or unbutton your shirt and press your baby up against your chest. You can then feed them as you normally would. Being physically close to your baby is really important for bonding, so you should definitely take advantage of this. It releases the hormone oxytocin which is great for bonding between parents and children. This is another great way that dads can bond with their babies too!
Eye contact is pretty powerful, and it releases chemicals in your brain that can make you happy. It creates a close connection with your little one. You can do this while having skin to skin contact, and it will help to get the oxytocin in your brain coming in. Keep your face around 8 to 10 inches away from your baby’s – they can’t see much further than that at this point in their life.
Talk to Baby
The chances are that your baby probably can’t speak a coherent conversation with you yet, but you can still bond by simply talking to your little one. Tell them about your day, tell them stories! It’ll help them to learn to listen, and it will help them to start talking sooner with their own words. Eventually, they’ll be babbling back to you with the same words you told them when they were young! You can also sing to them, as babies love singing. Your little one just loves the sound of your voice because they’ve been hearing it since before they even got into the world, so let them hear it.
Weaning Baby From Breast to Bottle
Making the transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding your baby can be a big step. For some babies, it’s very easy to adapt to the bottle. They’ll be guzzling down that yummy food in no time! On the other hand, some babies may take a while to get used to being bottle fed. They may struggle to adjust to the bottle and the sensation in their mouth – it’s a totally new thing for them after all, and the sensory overload can be pretty intense for any baby.
To start with, you should start with just one bottle feeding a day for a week to help your baby to adapt to solely relying on the bottle. Every week you should then increase the number of bottle feedings until you are fully using the bottle. This is great as it can help your body to get used to it, and it helps your baby to adjust gradually. It’s best not to do a sudden change all at once as it may have a negative effect on your little one.
Most babies will have no issue with adapting to bottle feeding, but every baby is different. Just have some patience and give it time, and they will eventually begin to adapt.
Ease Into It
The trick is to make the process a gradual one. Don’t go from breastfeeding one day, to completely feeding your baby from the bottle the next day. It can take time for your baby to adjust, so you need to be patient. Just try it for one feed a day and then increase it over the following weeks. Eventually, your baby will be feeding completely from the bottle.
Weaning Baby From Bottle to Cup
Time to get out the tissues, because your baby is growing up! It’s a bittersweet time for any parent, but it’s so exciting to see how your baby responds to all sorts of new foods! Most dieticians recommend that you should stop using the bottles around the time they hit one year old. This is mainly because you’re going to be using cow’s milk instead of formula at this point. Whatever the case, it’s usually best to ensure that they are completely off the bottle by the time that they reach 18 months old. You don’t want your baby to be relying on pacifiers and bottles for longer than necessary. It’s harder to get your baby to detach from them the older that they get.
By the time that your baby is around 6 to 9 months old, they should be beginning to use sippy cups. At this point, they can start to drink water and other sorts of liquids. There are two main ways to get your baby off the bottles too. The first choice is to just take them away entirely, transitioning quickly. This can be effective, but it’s often met with resistance from many parents who think that it isn’t kind to their baby. It isn’t going to be a simple task, but it will make the process faster. Be prepared for your baby to resist. Alternatively, you can gradually introduce them to the sippy cup through time.
You may find that it’s particularly difficult to get your baby to stop taking the night time bottle. It can sometimes mean that it is harder for your baby to get to sleep. You can counter this by having a comfortable ritual at bedtime to help your baby to feel better. For instance, you could keep them close while reading a story, or you can give them a bath before bed. Pretty soon, they’ll forget how much they depended on their bottle and will be fully transitioned to the sippy cup.
The main thing to do is to be consistent. Be firm – the transition is going to be difficult, but it’s necessary for your baby’s health. They’ll thank you for it when they are older!
And that’s everything that you need to know about bottle feeding your baby! It can be a little daunting, but like with everything when it comes to parenting, you will get used to it with time. If you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to speak to family or a health practitioner for help. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child!