Not sure how to get started with bottle feeding? Here's what you need to know.
Getting started with bottle feeding
So you're ready to give that first bottle feed: you've made up the bottle, you've tested the temperature of the milk and you have a muslin cloth to hand. What next?
First, you might like to put a bib on your baby, to catch any dribbles. You may also want to do a nappy change; otherwise, you can wait for this until after the feed.
Seat yourself comfortably and cuddle up to your little one. Slide the teat into his or her mouth, keeping the bottle tipped at an angle so there is always milk in the teat (this keeps your baby from swallowing air). Now you can enjoy the closeness of this special time.
How often to feed your baby
As with breastfeeding, it’s best to bottle feed your baby on demand at first. If you pay close attention to your baby's behaviour, you'll start to notice the early signs of hunger, like turning toward your breast with an open mouth and making sucking motions. This may happen every couple of hours or so at first, sometimes more often, sometimes less. Over time, your baby will begin to develop a routine, and the gaps between feeds will gradually lengthen.
It’s often suggested that bottle fed babies sleep through the night sooner. This could be because infant formula takes longer to digest, so babies may go longer between feeds.
How much to feed your baby
You’ll find a feeding guide on the side of your formula pack, but bear in mind that these tables are just a guide; you may find that your baby needs more or less than the suggested amount. Every baby is different. Sometimes they have days when they’re extra hungry (often linked with a growth spurt), and at other times their appetite may be smaller.
While you're feeding your baby, keep an eye out for signs of fullness; slowing down or resting for a while between bouts of sucking will indicate that little tummy is just about full up.
If you are at all concerned about how much to feed your baby, ask your health visitor or GP for advice.
Is your baby getting enough?
If your little one is feeding well, gaining weight, producing at least six wet nappies a day and seems generally contented, then it’s very likely they’re getting enough milk. For added peace of mind, you can go to your local baby clinic for weigh-ins; your health visitor will plot your baby's growth on development charts in your child's health record book.
Things to look out for:
Babies who are bottle fed can get thirsty at times, especially if the weather is very hot. If you think this is the case, try offering some cooled boiled water. (Babies who are breastfed do not need any extra water.)
Bottle-fed babies can also experience bouts of constipation. If your baby has less than three bowel movements a week, or seems uncomfortable while doing a poo, ask your health visitor for advice.
Babies usually need to be winded during and/or after a feed; how much depends on your baby. Some are quite ‘windy', some bring up a little (or a lot!) of milk when they burp, some babies are often a bit sick after a feed and others rarely bring anything up. It can be a bit messy when your baby brings up wind, so it’s best to have a bib or muslin in place!
To help your baby to bring up wind, you can:
- Put the baby upright against your shoulder. Gently patting or rubbing their back in this position can also help.
- With one hand spread over baby's chest and tummy and supporting their chin, gently sit the baby forward on your lap, with your other hand supporting their back.