Bottle Feeding Basics for Beginners

combo-feeding formula Jan 23, 2023
A newborn baby is drinking from a bottle while being held by the mother.

 Whether you are using pumped breastmilk or formula, understanding proper bottle feeding can make it a lot easier on you, other caregivers and your baby. 

Which bottle should we use?

While there aren’t specific brands I recommend, there are general characteristics to look for when choosing a bottle for your baby.

Most speech therapists will recommend a nipple that is longer and gradually sloping instead of the bulb with a shorter nipple (which resembles a breast). The reason behind choosing one with a longer nipple is when a child breastfeeds, the nipple elongates so the baby can more efficiently feed. We want to mimic that with a bottle nipple.

There is a lot of marketing out there not based in fact so try to ignore it.

What size of nipple should we use?

Here is what I have learned: just like clothes, nipple sizes are not universal across brands. A size 1 nipple from one brand is not equal to a size 1 of another brand.

You want to use the slowest flow nipple your baby will tolerate. If the flow is too slow, your baby will have to work really hard to drink. If it is too fast, your baby may have a hard time with that much milk coming at once.

If your baby is breastfeeding, try to stay at a level 1 for as long as possible as it most closely mimics the flow of milk from the breast. There is a lot more information on this topic at NationwideChildrens.org.

How to prepare a bottle?

First thing, remember that milk can be given at any temperature. Find what your baby likes or will tolerate because it is truly a matter of preference.

If using formula, prepare the formula as directed by the manufacturer. The instructions will be listed on the can.

If using pumped breast milk, it can be given to your baby fresh, thawed, or if it has been in the fridge for less than 4 days. Remember, milk only in the bottle.

Do not add anything else to the bottle such as rice cereal unless directed by your pediatric provider.

What is the proper way to bottle feed a baby?

More important than the kind of bottle or nipple you use is the position of your baby during the feed. 

  • Support baby in a semi-upright position with the baby’s head cradled in the crook of your arm.
  • Hold the bottle so the nipple fills completely with milk. If there is air in the nipple, the baby will also take in the air which can lead to gas and upset tummies. 
  • Try not to feed your baby while they are laying flat on their back. This increases the risk of choking and milk can run into the child’s eustachian tubes, possibly leading to middle ear infections. 
  • In the first few weeks of life, you may have to touch the nipple to the baby’s cheek to stimulate that rooting reflex.
  • Remember never to prop bottles. Feeding your baby should be an active experience for both of you. 

There is a lot to learn about feeding your baby and I want you to know that you are not alone. Both you and your baby are learning a new skill and it is hard!

Seek out help if you/your baby are struggling. Reach out to your pediatric provider or contact me. I am happy to help.

If you are looking for in-depth information on feeding your baby, check out my comprehensive digital course: Newborn Feeding Made Simple so you can feel empowered vs nervous about feeding your newborn.

I am also available for prenatal one-on-one consultations for a personalized plan before your baby comes!

Have questions about starting solids?

 

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