Breastfeeding your baby may not always be possible for various reasons. Many parents prefer to combine formula feeding with breastfeeding during the early months. Whether you are exclusively formula feeding your baby or using it to supplement your breast milk, here are some essential tips and information for you.
1. Is it okay to formula feed your baby?
Though no formula can match the breast milk, formulas today offer nutrients closer to what babies get from breast feeding. Many formulas contain important supplements like Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid. So, if you are unable to breastfeed properly due to work pressure, low lactation, not getting time for regular pumping, or any other issue, it’s completely safe to formula feed your baby. However, choose the best baby formula based upon the advice of your medical consultant. Also, do not entirely give up breastfeeding to the extent possible because only breast milk supplies the immunity factors to fight illnesses.
2. How often should you feed?
Baby formulas are not digested as easily as the breast milk. So, your baby will feel full longer than on breast milk. The amount and volume however varies with each child and formula. As a standard guideline, you should feed your baby 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound of his/her body weight. Most experts advise against following a rigid schedule for feeding; you can set up a broad feeding pattern though, based upon how often your baby ‘asks for it’. Most of the babies feel hungry every 2-3 hours during the initial months of feeding.
3. Preparing a formula feed
Use good quality, filtered water for preparing the formula feed. Many parents get doubt whether they should sterilize the water. Sterilizing is actually not required unless your doctor recommends it or the water you use is not safe for drinking. If you prefer using boiled water, allow it to cool down to room temperature before mixing the formula. You can warm the bottle if your baby likes it that way but avoid microwaving the formula. The best way to warm the bottle is by putting it in warm water. Using bottle warmers is okay too but be careful not to overheat.
4. Keep the bottle clean
Most parents use a plastic, glass, or steel bottle. If you are buying a plastic bottle, look out for BPA-free label. The size of the nipple should be appropriate for the age of your baby. Keep the bottle as well as the nipple clean and hygienic. Though regular sterilizing of the bottle is not required, you doctor may recommend sterilizing it before the first use. For sterilizing the bottle, dip it in a bowl of boiling water for about 5 minutes and then keep it on a piece of clean cloth for drying. Once dry, wash it with normal, dish wash detergent. If you are using a plastic bottle, avoid boiling it. Instead, clean it with a bottle brush using warm water.
5. Things to keep in mind while feeding
Keep the bottle at proper angle so as to avoid a too high or too low flow of fluid. Don’t raise the bottom of the bottle too high but tilt it enough throughout, in order to keep the nipple full of milk; holding the bottle too flat will create air bubbles. It’s a good idea to mimic breastfeeding in terms of eye contact and the way you hold your baby (keeping the bottle and the baby’s head closer to the breast). Switch the direction for each feed or even in-between the feed. Don’t forget to take burping breaks while feeding; hold the baby over your shoulder and pat on the middle of his/her back.
Monitor your baby’s bowel movements whenever you try a new formula. It’s normal to have slightly firmer stool than while breastfeeding but if it causes constipation, you should probably change your baby formula. If the formula causes vomiting or you notice spots of blood in the stool, discontinue the formula and contact your baby’s doctor immediately.