7 tips for bottle feeding
Whether you’re formula-feeding, are pumping for when your baby is at daycare, or are just allowing your partner to get a chance to bond with your baby during feeding time, bottle feeding is a safe and positive alternative to breastfeeding. While breastfeeding can be slightly more intuitive, bottle feeding gives new parents the flexibility to handle the busy nature of new parenthood. These tips will make bottle feeding as intuitive and comfortable as possible.
- Respond to your baby’s needs
Even if it feels like all your baby does is eat, when she seems hungry, it's probably time for her next meal. Some parents choose to follow a strict feeding schedule, while others prefer to be more guided by their child's hunger cues, but no matter style of feeding you choose, make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Babies have little tiny bellies - their stomachs are the size of cherries until they're a few days old, and they grow until they're about the size of an apricot by the time they're a week old, and they're only about the size of an egg between one and two months old. This means any feeding routine is bound to include lots of little feeding times, at least for a while. Pay attention to your newborn’s reactions - if she stops drinking after a couple of minutes she might be gassy! Make sure to burp her often to bring up those bubbles and relieve your baby's discomfort during feeds.
- Use the right tools for the job
There are three different grades of nipples, based on the size of the holes in the nipples, which determines the speed at which the milk comes out. When your baby is in her first few weeks, the slowest-flow nipples will probably work best for her. These are often, but not always, the size that bottles come with, though bottles often come with a range of nipple sizes. If your baby is particularly gassy, there are also bottles specifically designed to try to keep her from ingesting too much air.
- Tilt the bottle
Especially with bottle feeding, it can be difficult to tell whether or not your baby is feeding correctly. If you hear noisy sucking, just like with breastfeeding, it may mean that she might be taking in too much air. To avoid painful gas, make sure to tilt the bottle so milk completely fills the nipple. Make sure to hold your baby at a 45-degree angle for maximum feeding capacity.
- Cradle your baby
Whenever you are feeding your baby, placement and support are key. Bottle feeding also gives parents a wider variety of positions to choose from. You can place your baby on your upright knees facing you, or more traditionally hold her head in the crook of your arm. Each of these positions allows the feeder to bond with your baby using eye contact. Most importantly, feeding your baby when she is lying down can cause the formula to flow into her ears and cause an infection, which is why feeding your baby when she is upright, or has her head tilted up, is generally the way to go.
- Switch it up
Although bottle feeding is certainly different from breastfeeding, mimicking some of the movements from the latter is often a good idea. Switching sides midway through a feed allows for your baby to experience different positions and stimulates eye development. It also allows for better connection between the feeder and child. This also prevents your baby from developing of a side preference, which could negatively impact a mother whose child is using a combination of breast- and bottle-feeding when she switches back to the breast.
- Don’t push it
Make sure to allow your baby to take the nipple into her own mouth rather than forcing it in. As much as you might want to be in control, your baby should be ruling the roost when it comes to mealtime. There are, however, little tricks you can use to encourage your baby to feed, such as stroking her tiny lips to illicit a rooting response, allowing her to latch onto a nipple. And remember - you should generally stop feeding as soon as your baby starts dozing off or squirming away from the bottle, although if your baby has just started to feed, it's not a bad idea to offer the bottle just one more time, since she could also have just been startled away from feeding by something extremal, like a noise or change in lighting.
- Timing is everything
Warnings about 'nipple confusion' and what will happen if a newborn is fed with a combination of breast and bottle are often not based in reality. However, if you're hoping to feed your baby with a combination of breast and bottle feeding, it can be a good idea to wait 2 to 4 weeks to introduce the bottle or until you both feel comfortable breastfeeding. This way, your milk supply has the chance to be fully established. On the other hand, parents who wait longer than a month and a half or so to introduce the bottle can have a harder time convincing their babies to give the bottle a try.
- Sue Iwinski. “Feeding On Cue.” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, October 1 2008. Web.
- Lisa Marasco. “How to Get Your Milk Supply Off To A Good Start.” La Leche League International, March 26 2013. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Feeding your newborn: Tips for new parents.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 17 2015. Web.
- E. Zimmerman, K. Thompson. “Clarifying nipple confusion.” Journal of Perinatology. 35(11): 895-9. Web. November 2015.
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