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Bottle Feeding Basics: The FAQs of Formula

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How often should I feed my baby?

At first, don't even try to follow a set schedule. Feed your baby whenever he seems hungry, which will probably be every two to three hours around the clock. Eventually, when he starts eating more at each feeding, the time between feedings will stretch out. Within a month or two you should be able to see a pattern and work out a schedule of sorts.

How much should I feed my baby?

Those first bottles will be small; prepare two or three ounces per feeding. During the first week especially, he may only take an ounce or two each time. It doesn't seem like a lot, but your baby's little belly is only about the size of his fist -- at first, he doesn't need that much to keep him satisfied! Then, follow his cues. If he is regularly sucking down those bottles and seems hungry for more, try to feed him a little bit more. If he routinely leaves a bit at the end of every bottle, he's probably full. Every baby is different; as long as he's eating consistently and dampening five to eight diapers every day, he's probably getting enough. If you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician.

How should I hold my baby while feeding him?

Generally the most comfortable feeding position for parent and baby is to hold him close to your body in the crook of your arm at about a 45 degree angle. This will help ensure that he's not taking in too much air along with the bottle, which will help prevent gas and discomfort. Tilt the bottle so that the nipple is always full of formula. Do not leave the baby alone with a propped up bottle -- this could cause your baby to choke!

What kind of formula should I give my baby?

Talk to your pediatrician to find the formula that is best for your baby. There are many choices on the market; most doctors recommend a milk-based formula, and 90 percent of babies will do just fine with it. For babies who might have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, there are also soy- and protein hydrolysate-based formulas. If your baby experiences diarrhea, vomiting or a rash after taking milk-based formula, see your doctor to find out if he has a milk allergy.

You can also select from powder, concentrated or ready-to-feed formulas. Powder formula is generally the most economical choice. It needs to be measured out and mixed with water. A can of powdered formula will generally be good for up to a month after it's been opened. Formula concentrate is simply diluted with water; once it's been opened, the can should be refrigerated and used within two days. Ready-to-feed formula comes ready to use, generally in single-serving size little bottles.

Should I sterilize my baby's bottles and nipples before each feeding?

Unless you have well water, you probably only need to sterilize the bottles before first use. Simply submerge them in a pot of boiling water for around 5 minutes, then set them on a clean towel to dry. After that, washing in hot soapy water and rinsing well should suffice (or run them through the dishwasher if they're dishwasher-safe). If you have well water, you may need to sterilize bottles and nipples repeatedly.

What do I do with the formula left in the bottle after a feeding? Should I save it for later?

Once your baby is finished with a bottle, discard any formula that's left. Do not save it for a future feeding.

Should I warm bottles before feeding my baby?

There's no health-related reason to warm a bottle before a feeding, but many babies prefer bottles that are a bit warmer than room temperature. If you do warm a bottle, do so by submerging it in a bowl of hot (not boiling) water or by holding it under hot running water. Don't warm it up in the microwave, which could create “hot spots” that could burn your baby. Test the temperature of the bottle by shaking a drop of formula on your wrist before feeding. It should feel warm, but not hot; if it feels too hot for you, it will definitely be too hot for your baby!