If you have decided on formula feeding your baby, you probably have lots of questions and information to consider. From the moment you find out you are expecting, you will be receiving (solicited and unsolicited) information regarding this topic everywhere from the internet, friends, acquaintances and even your mother-in-law. I know this can be confusing but take heart, this article explains the basics of what you need to know about formula feeding.
Formula feeding tips
To get started and get you through the first week or so, you will need bottles, nipples, water, formula, and burp cloths. Keep in mind this is not the time to stock up on any one item, especially formula, as it may not agree with your baby and she might not be happy with your choices. Since nipple sizes control speeds and flow of formula, they will vary according to babies at all stages of infancy.
For this reason, it is important to choose the correct size. For example, if feeding a newborn you should purchase the smallest sizes and let your baby choose which nipple she prefers. Be sure to choose bottles with features that minimize air bubbles. If you decide to use plastic bottles, make sure they are BPA free and try to stick with glass bottles that are made from hospital-grade glass. Once you and your baby get the hang of things and you figure what works and what doesn’t, go ahead and stock up on supplies.
Types of Formula
Fortunately, today’s formulas are very comparable to breast milk and they contain every nutrient that your baby needs to thrive and be healthy. Although all commercial infant formulas are regulated by the FDA to contain the minimum recommended about of nutrients that infants need, manufacturers might vary in formula recipes. Just be aware of some important nutrients that are present in breast milk that are also being added in a lot of today’s formulas.
The latest research has shown that certain supplements are beneficial to your baby’s health. For instance, prebiotics are good for the immune system and may help ease colic and gastrointestinal issues. Also, the addition of DHA and ARA which are fatty acids that are found naturally in breast milk, may contribute to infant brain growth and neurodevelopment.
Formula also comes in three main protein types:
- Cow’s milk protein- Most infant formula is made from cow’s milk. This generally has the right balance of nutrients which makes the formula easy to digest. However, some babies are allergic to cow’s milk and will need another type of formula.
- Soy-based formula- Parents usually choose soy formula when their baby is allergic or sensitive to cow’s milk or when their baby is having trouble digesting lactose. Although, a lot of babies who are allergic to cow’s milk protein are also allergic to soy protein.
- Formula for special conditions – If you are concerned that your baby might be allergic to cow’s milk protein, soy protein or if your baby is displaying unusual symptoms such as skin rashes, wheezing, or excessive fussiness please talk to your pediatrician and they will recommend a special formula for your baby.
Most infant formulas come in three forms: powdered (to be mixed with water), concentrated liquid formula (to be mixed with water) or ready-to-use formula. Be sure to carefully read and follow mixing and storage instructions.
How to make formula milk
Making a bottle with formula is not difficult, however you need to mix it with water in the correct proportions and take some proper precautions to insure the health of your baby. This is very important as you can put your baby at risk for foodborne illnesses.
First, always check the expiration date as formula is perishable. Also, make sure the equipment that you are using is washed very well. Some experts say that scrubbing the bottles and nipples with warm, soapy water will kill the majority of the germs while others advise sanitizing all nipples, rings, spoons and bottles. Do keep in mind that heat may release BPA from some plastics.
Next, follow the preparation instructions on the container precisely. If you dilute the formula with too much water, your baby will not be getting the nutrients and calories needed which can serious damage including failure to thrive and stunted growth if this happens on a regular basis.
Conversely, adding too little water can cause your baby to dehydrate. Always toss the remainder of formula that your does not finish within one hour. Never save an unfished bottle for later as bacteria from her mouth can contaminate the formula. Of course, always be sure to wash your hand very well with warm soapy water before making a bottle.
The kind of water you use will depend on the nature of the tap water in your area. Check with your local health department to make sure it is safe to drink. Still, some experts suggest sterilizing water by bringing to a rapid boil for one minute taking care to not let it cool for longer than 30 minutes before mixing it with formula. If using bottled water, be aware that is no guarantee that it is sterile.
How Much Formula to feed
If you are formula feeding newborn, during her first few weeks she will take in 2 to 3 ounces of formula approximately every three to four hours. She will be up to at least 4 ounces per feeding about every four hours by the end of her first month. At six months, your baby will be up to 6 to 8 ounces at each 4 – 5 feedings per 24 hours. On average, your baby needs about 2.5 ounces per pound of their body weight over a 24 hour feeding period.
This is general guideline, however, you do need to pay attention to feeding cues; her behavior that will let you know when she is hungry and when she is full. Signs that your baby is hungry will include: crying, acting restless, rooting, sucking on her fist, smacking her lips and her mouth while feeding. Signs that your baby is full include: decreasing or stopping sucking, closing lips, turning her head away, falling asleep, spitting out the nipple or getting distracted.
The most important thing to remember is that feeding time is a special bonding time for you and your baby. Just follow the basic guidelines and you and your baby will discover together what works for the both of you.