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Bottle feeding a baby with formula

Formula Feeding Guidelines

December 07, 2017
3 min read

Although nothing truly duplicates breast milk, modern formulas are a good choice for your baby. If you choose to supplement breastfeeding, try to waituntil your baby is 3 to 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 otherfamily members, can do some of the feeding right from the start, or whenever you decide to supplement or switch. Whoever is doing the feeding needs to holdthe baby's head at a slightly elevated angle and keep the bottle held up so she doesn't suck in a lot of air.

What's in this article:

Choosing the Right Formula Water and Formula How Much Is Enough? Follow Your Baby’s Lead Things You Should Know Reminders and Precautions

Choosing the Right Formula

Infant formulas are made to meet your baby's nutritional needs, very much like the breast milk on which they're modeled. Most formulas are modified cows'milk, and all standard brands are very similar. Unless your healthcare 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), and powder (the most economical).Read and follow the mixing directions carefully.

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. To confirm that your tap water is safe, checkwith your local or state health agency, and be sure to bring any questions or concerns to your healthcare provider as well.

After babies are 6 months old, they also need fluoride. Bottled water may not contain any, and your water supply may or may not have adequate quantities.Your healthcare 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 a small amount at first. One to 2 ounces per feeding is usually enough early on, but by the time yourbaby 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:

Age Amount per feeding Feeding frequency
Newborn 2 to 3 ounces Every 3 to 4 hours
1 month 4 ounces Every 4 hours
2 months 4 ounces 6 to 7 feedings/24 hours
4 months 4 to 6 ounces 5 feedings/24 hours
6 months 6 to 8 ounces 5 feedings/24 hours
1 year 8 ounces 2to 3 feedings/24 hours supplemented with baby food

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Remember, each baby is unique and will vary her intake from feeding to feeding, and day to day. Never force-feed her extra formula, and don't leave herstill smacking her lips for more. A baby who spits up often may do better with smaller, more frequent feedings.

Things You Should Know

Hand washing. Always wash your hands carefully before preparing formula.

Washing feeding equipment.If you wash and rinse bottles and artificial nipples carefully — with hot, clean water — boiling or sterilizing them is unnecessary. Be sure to clean outany leftover formula, which can spoil easily and upset your baby's stomach.

Throwing out used formula. Prepared formula can be kept in the refrigerator for 48 hours if the baby hasn't touched the nipple. If he has, throw out whatever remains after a feeding.

Heating formula.Never heat formula in the microwave. Microwaves heat the formula unevenly, and hotspots will burn your baby. Place the bottle in a bowl of hot water for afew minutes to bring it up to room temperature.

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Switching formula.Sometimes switching formulas can help settle little digestive problems. Switching to a soy formula can help with allergies, but check with your healthcarepractitioner about any switches.

Different digestion.Compared with breast milk, formula moves more slowly through the digestive tract, so expect the time between feedings to be a bit longer (three to fourhours) and the stools to be a bit larger and drier than those of breastfed babies.

Reminders and Precautions

Hold your baby during feedings.Propping him up with his bottle presents a choking hazard.

Check his diapers.If your baby appears to be wetting fewer diapers than usual, call your healthcare provider. Your baby may be dehydrated or undernourished.

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 he’s struggling, the hole may be too small or the nipple too hard for him. 

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