Although nothing truly duplicates breast milk, modern formulas are a good second best. If you choose to supplement breastfeeding, try to wait until your baby is 3-4 weeks old so your milk supply is well-established.
The moments when you're giving your baby a bottle are wonderful times to feel close and to get to know each other. And your baby's father, as well as other family members, can do some of the feeding right from the start, or whenever you decide to supplement or switch. Be sure that each feeding has the same amount of closeness, cuddles, and coos as it would have if you were nursing. Hold your baby's head at a slightly elevated angle and keep the bottle held up so she doesn't suck in a lot of air.
Choosing the Right Formula
You can be assured that infant formulas are made to meet your baby's nutritional needs, very much like breast milk, on which they're modeled. Most formulas are modified cows' milk, and all standard brands are very similar. Unless your provider tells you otherwise, pick one that is fortified with iron.
Formulas come in three types of preparations:
- Ready-to-feed (the most expensive)
- Liquid concentrate (less expensive)
- Powder (the most economical)
Not surprisingly, the ones that save time and effort are the most expensive. But if mixed properly, they are all the same. Read the directions carefully each time you mix up formula. Mix it exactly according to directions. Avoid making up bottles in the middle of the night when you're sleepy, or at times when you're distracted.
Water and Formula
You don't need to use bottled water in your baby's formula unless there's a problem with your water supply. Check with your health care provider and with your local water utility about your water if you have any questions. Many municipalities will issue a notice if water is unfit for babies or pregnant women. After they're 6 months old, babies also need fluoride. Bottled water may not contain any, and your water supply may or may not have adequate quantities. Your health care provider can tell you if your baby needs extra fluoride beyond what is used for formula preparation.
How Much Is Enough?
Newborns start out with a stomach that can hold only 1 or 2 teaspoons (5 to 10 ml); then they can hold more and more after the first week. One to 2 ounces per feeding is usually enough at first. But by the time your baby is 2 months old, for example, she'll need 24 to 32 ounces a day and about six to seven feedings in a 24-hour period.
Here's a rough idea of how much formula your baby needs, and how often she needs to be fed:
||Amount per feeding:
||2 to 3 ounces
|Every 3 to 4 hours
||Every 4 hours
|6 to 7 feedings/24 hours
||4 to 6 ounces
||6 feedings/24 hours
||6 to 8 ounces
||5 feedings/24 hours
||2 to 3 feedings/24 hours
Remember, each baby is unique. And each baby will vary her intake from feeding to feeding, day to day. Never force-feed her extra formula, and don't leave her still smacking her lips for more. A baby who spits up often may do better with smaller, more frequent feedings. Follow her lead.
Other ways to estimate your baby's intake:
- Allow 2 1/2 ounces of formula for each pound of body weight as a total daily amount.
- After the first month, babies add about 1 ounce to each feeding for every month of life, starting at a base of 3 to 4 ounces per feeding. This increase stops when they reach 8 ounces per feeding.
When your baby is 3 months or younger, you will need small, 4-ounce bottles to feed her. Sometime later, you will find the taller, 8-ounce bottles will be needed.
Formula moves more slowly through the digestive tract than breast milk, so expect the time between feedings to be a bit longer (three to four hours) and the stools to be a bit larger and drier than those of breastfed babies.
Good Things to Know
- Don't worry if your baby loses weight in the first days after birth. She was packed up with water and extra fat to get her through the "marathon" of birth. She'll probably be back up to her birth weight after the first week. Of course, check with your infant's health care provider if you have concerns.
- If you wash and rinse bottles and artificial nipples carefully — with hot, clean water — boiling or sterilizing them is unnecessary. Be sure to clean out any leftover formula, which can spoil easily and upset your baby's stomach. Some dishwashers have a sanitizing cycle that can give bottles an extra-thorough cleaning.
- Always wash your hands carefully before you prepare formula. Be sure all containers and utensils are very clean. Wipe the formula can before opening it.
- Prepared formula can be kept in the refrigerator for 48 hours if the baby hasn't touched the nipple. If she has, throw out whatever remains after a feeding.
- You don't necessarily have to heat up the formula. Although very few babies appreciate really cold formula, some babies are more particular than others. Never heat formula in the microwave. Microwaves heat the formula unevenly, making it deceptively cool in spots and more likely to burn your baby when she hits a hot spot. Hold the bottle under hot water for a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature.
- Formulas are all pretty similar, but stay with one if it's working well for your baby. In a few cases, switching formulas can help settle little digestive problems, but usually not. Talk to your health care provider before switching your baby's formula.
- All commercial formulas are modified cow's milk, except those made from soy products. If your family has a lot of allergies and you choose to formula feed, discuss the use of a soy formula with your health care practitioner.
- Throw out any unused formula. It spoils quickly, and that could upset your baby's sensitive stomach. Mix up just a little more than your baby usually takes at a feeding, in case she's extra hungry.
- Your baby needs to be held as much as she needs to be fed, so don't just prop her up with her bottle. She could choke feeding this way, too.
- If your baby wets fewer than six diapers each day, call your health care provider right away. She may be dehydrated or undernourished.
- Carefully clean off the formula can before you open it to avoid contaminating the milk.
- Make sure the nipple hole is the right size. If it's too large, your baby will gag and look alarmed at the fast milk flow. If it seems as if she is sucking too hard, the hole may be too small or the nipple too hard for her.
- Artificial nipples come in a lot of shapes and sizes. There is no best one for all infants. Try out a couple to see what works best for your baby.
- Don't substitute goat's milk for breast milk or formula. The mineral nutrient balance is wrong for babies, although great for (real) kids.
- Evaporated milk may have been your first food, but it's not the best we can offer now. It has the wrong protein, mineral, and fat balance for humans. It's unmodified cow's milk, which stresses a baby's gut and kidneys.
- Regular cow's milk is not recommended for children younger than 1 year. Stay with breast milk or commercial formula until after the first birthday party.
- Don't add honey to anything. It can contain spores that can produce serious disease in infants under 1 year.
- Don't dilute formula or make it weaker than directed. If you can't afford the formula your baby needs, call your health care provider right away. He or she can help you get into the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program.